A Boral quarry and its employees have been influential in the battle against destructive bushfires across the mid-north coast region of New South Wales.
Holding dams at the company’s John Rivers Quarry, 45km south of Port Macquarie, provided a crucial water source to protect its nearby community for four days during the recent disaster that has destroyed hundreds of homes in the state.
Due to extreme conditions limiting the Stuarts River water source, the quarry’s 10,000-litre water cart transported water from its settlement ponds to frontline fire trucks from 9 to 12 November. On 10 November, the quarry also opened its gates to the fire service to allow it to fill its own vehicles.
“Over the four days, in excess of 150,000 litres of water was supplied to the Rural Fire Service,” John Rivers Quarry manager Mathew Miller said.
The site itself is registered with the NSW Static Water Supply program, which identifies properties with sources of water supply such as dams, creeks or swimming pools that can be used for firefighting purposes.
In recent times, the quarry also developed a new settlement basin at the front of the site to capture additional stormwater run-off. Equipped with high flow suction line and waist-height hose fittings, it was constructed to also offer a safe, accessible and quick filling water supply for the fire service.
Miller said due to dry conditions in recent months, the front holding dam was not used in the recent response. Overall, the network of on-site holding dams contains upwards of one million litres.
Johns River Rural Fire Service deputy captain Chris Bawn said the area had an “intense drought” classification and limited water to fight fires.
“There’s no town water where we are. It’s all either tanks or dams and there’s not much in either of those – or the rivers. So Boral, being fairly local to the area, was able to replenish supplies, which was extremely helpful.”
He said firefighters positioned themselves to protect properties throughout the Johns River township, bracing for the fire as it tore through the nearby forest. Their preparedness and favourable winds prevented the fire from destroying properties.
“If that water supply wasn’t available, it could have been a totally different story – we could have lost dwellings,” Bawn said.
Boral employee launches ‘Donate a tap’ initiative
In Wingham, 50km southwest of Johns River, Boral asphalt production technician Owen Harper and his wife Taycee-Lea Jones have also taken a lead role to protect their community from bushfire threats.
Harper used his ute and trailer to cart 2000 litres of water and a petrol pump. During the height of the fires, he stayed up until 1am each night to provide water to fire trucks, travelling more than 700km and donating 18,000 litres of water.
Harper and Jones launched an initiative called “Donate a Tap”, which asked members of the community, who could provide spare water, for their address so the tanks could be filled. More than 70 people offered to donate water.
He later posted online asking if anyone had a vehicle to help with the transport efforts, which resulted in a convoy of 21 vehicles delivering 21,000 litres at a time.