Esperance fire an 'unstoppable force'

19 Nov, 2015 09:31 AM
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A GREAT bloke, great footballer, committed farmer and dedicated community man was how Esperance locals were remembering Kym Curnow, tragically lost in Tuesday's bushfires at Cascades, along with three overseas travellers working in the region.

For most, news of Mr Curnow's passing was just too unbelievable and too horrible to comprehend.

But for those on the ground fighting the fire, the fury with which it unleashed its wrath and the swathe of devastation it cut, left no doubt this was one of the worst fires in the region's history and the human toll could easily have been higher.

Coomalbidgup Volunteer Fire Brigade fire control officer and close friend of Mr Curnow, Simon Stead said he had never seen anything quite like it in 25 years of fighting fires.

"I don't think it would have mattered who was fighting that fire or what technology they had available to them it was an unstoppable force," Mr Stead said.

"Cascade locals spent two days dozing, scarifying and ploughing containment lines in readiness for the fire to come out of the bush, but it amounted to nothing.

"It just went straight over the top.

"There are so many stories of people being overrun by the fire and lucky to get out of some tricky situations."

Mr Stead said firefighters were physically exhausted and emotionally broken as they tried to come to terms with the loss of a great mate and devastating stock and property losses.

And reports that Mr Curnow had died trying to warn others of the impending danger "would not surprise him in the least".

"Freddy was an absolute legend of the Gibson Football Club, as a player and an office bearer and you would not get a more dedicated family man or community-minded person," he said.

"As a farmer he was one of the best, dedicated to the job, always employing best practice and doing things properly.

"I don't think he had an enemy in the world, he was just a big hearted, fun-loving, generous guy."

Mr Stead said about 50 to 60 fire crews, including from Munglinup, Jerdacuttup and Hopetoun, had been involved in fighting the Cascades fire and cooler, more humid conditions on Wednesday had helped.

"At the peak of the fire we were battling temperatures of 40C or more and winds reportedly of 50 to 80 kilometres an hour," he said.

"We have about five fire zones now being managed west of the Norseman Highway and there's more to the east."

Mr Stead said his property had not been affected by the fire but he felt for those who had been impacted.

"I know there have been massive operations euthanasing injured sheep and digging holes with big earthmoving gear to bury the dead," he said.

"It would have been the hardest thing in the world for those farmers to do, but this is when everyone pulls together and helps everyone out."

Mr Stead said this year would probably be one of the first times farmers in the region would be hoping for summer rain to germinate weeds to hold the country together.

"Even on Tuesday after the fire went though we were getting sandblasted standing in bare paddocks so without summer rain things will be looking very untidy by next cropping season," he said.

Mr Curnow is survived by his wife Roseanne and children Tom, Riley and Emma.

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