Community, Environment

Fire crews busiest day as dangerous winds wreak havoc in Picton

High winds caused widespread damage to property in Picton. Photo: Supplied.

Picton Volunteer fire crew had one of their busiest days on record last week as severe winds battered the town.

Winds gusting more than 100km caused chaos as the volunteer crew dealt with 12 callouts in less than 12 hours.

And as pine trees snapped in 140km gusts on forestry roads near Tory Channel last Tuesday, it was sheer luck that prevented a major fire, says chief fire officer Wayne Wytenburg.

Many of the crew were busy all day as a barrage of calls came into the national fire communications centre.

From roofs partially being blown off, to arching power lines and a caravan destroyed by severe gusts, the emergencies kept coming, says Wayne.

“We’ve had winds before but not like this, not recently. It was a very busy day for the crew, that’s for sure.

“A crew member was coming back from Tory Channel via forestry roads and clocked a 140km/h gust; pine trees were just snapping.

‘We’re really lucky that nothing landed on power lines or there could have been a huge fire and there would have been nothing we could have done; the winds were too severe.”

The crew got their first call at about 8.30am when glass tiles above the entrance to Picton Medical Centre were shifted by the wind.

Staff called for help, worried the glass tiles would fall and injure someone.

Deputy chief fire officer Greg Frisken says the brigade dealt with three or four calls that morning alone.

Some of the call outs were serious he says, posing a potential threat to life. A job at Seaview Crescent where metal roof tiles were smashing to the ground saw people running for cover.

“By the afternoon it had really ramped up and the calls kept coming.

“We were at the caravan securing it by the St John Ambulance centre when we got a call to go to Queen Charlotte College as part of the roof was lifting there. We secured the caravan temporarily, went to the college and then came back to the caravan.”

Wayne paid tribute to the crews who helped and appealed for more volunteers to sign up.

“They did a marvellous job but we seriously need to get more recruits. We need at least five more staff, especially those who live in Picton.

“I’d also like to thank the employers and those volunteers who are self-employed. We don’t get paid and without the support of the community we wouldn’t be able to do the job we do.”

The fire station is open on a Monday night for potential volunteers from 7pm and would be volunteers are welcome to come along. To find out more, visit the Picton Volunteer Fire Brigade’s Facebook page or contact Wayne on: 0272226490

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