Council leads push to create emergency staging area in Oakdale

Pictures: Simon Bennett
Pictures: Simon Bennett

Firefighters across Macarthur and beyond were faced with an unexpectedly intense start to the fire season and staging areas were created all the way down the NSW south coast.

Wollondilly Council is set to work alongside lead agencies to seek to establish an operational base for emergency response in Oakdale.

Councillor and volunteer firefighter Blair Briggs believes a site in Oakdale known as Brimstone would be the perfect spot for this project.

"It's an idea that has been discussed for quite some time," he said.

"I just wanted to bring this to the council because Brimstone is in a very important strategic position due to its proximity to the Burragorang Valley.

"There is infrastructure already there that can be used to land aircraft and plenty of flat land to stage tankers out of.

"We have had positive feedback from Water NSW, the RFS and other lead agencies we just need an official commitment of what should be built there."

Cr Briggs said Brimstone proved to be an essential asset when firefighters were battling the extensive Green Wattle Creek bushfire in late 2019 and early 2020.

The inferno destroyed many properties in Wollondilly and the Southern Highlands.

"As a frontline firefighter it proved to be extremely useful," Cr Briggs said.

"We had firefighters flying in and out to Yerranderie.

"It was an 11-minute flight from Brimstone but to drive out there it would have taken us an hour or two.

"There's the issue of getting tankers and heavy trucks down those roads - it's much easier to fly from a spot like Brimstone."

Cr Briggs said he envisaged the project being a team effort from the council and other stakeholders.

"We had staging areas in The Oaks, Buxton, Balmoral and even Bundanoon as the fire moved so staging areas are flexible," he said.

"But creating a more permanent staging area in Oakdale would benefit all agencies.

"It could be used year round as a training location for the RFS, for air support, even the air force.

"Obviously it needs some fences and other things to make it secure but we basically just want to open the door for official conversations on the matter.

"I just want the council to open the meeting and ask the lead agencies what we'd like to see there."

Cr Briggs said he would like to see the staging area established sooner rather than later.

"I don't want to be a doomsday prophesier or anything like that but there is still a lot of area that hasn't burned," he said.

"All that fuel on the ground that burned in the recent fires is still in the areas that didn't burn.

"All it will take is more conditions like we had earlier this year and the risk of fire will be very real."

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This story Council leads push to create emergency staging area in Oakdale first appeared on Wollondilly Advertiser.