John Philips among CFA volunteers at Chepstowe

VETERAN volunteer firefighter John Philips woke up on Tuesday morning expecting the day to unfold like any other, but by 5pm the Ballarat councillor found himself in Carngham battling a fast-moving blaze and completely surrounded by fire.

Cr Philips and his Cardigan-Windermere Fire Brigade tanker crew  were among the first on the front line after fire ignited from a ute.

With the fire raging out of control his unit was directed to protect assets, staying at the property until the fire passed.

For a substantial period of time Cr Philips and the crew had no escape route should they need it, with fire engulfing most of the region.

“We knew it was highly likely we would become surrounded by the fire but we planned for it,” Cr Philips said.

“The fire certainly came up very quickly and because there was a fair amount of wind we understood that once it started it would get going fairly quickly.”

“We were at the property for several hours because we had to continue to protect it after the fire went through, but we also weren’t able to get out until fire had burnt out in front of us and we could get on the access road.”

After leaving the property, the tanker and its crew went to provide support in other areas nearby, eventually getting called off about 11pm.

Cr Philips is in a unique position whenever he gets a call to respond to a fire, being a member of both the Cardigan-Windermere Fire Brigade and the Headquarters Brigade on Learmonth Road.

Each time he receives a page about a fire he has two options.

“Yesterday (Tuesday) I had to make a decision whether to go to the headquarters and take a more administrative role or to go and fight fires on the tanker,” he said.

“In the end we saved the property so the outcome was very satisfying. If we weren’t there it would have been absolutely burnt to the ground.”

Cr Philips, a former captain of the Cardigan-Windermere brigade, said that although the fire was “very nasty”, it wasn’t the worst he’d fought.

“I wouldn’t say it was the most vicious, that was the Avoca fires in 1985,” he said.

“There was also Ash Wednesday as well as the Musk fires a couple of years ago.”

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