Wytaliba had been back burning before fatal fire: Sparks

OPINION | 'We did burnoffs': Badja Sparks hits back

I have been a member of the Wytaliba community near Glen Innes for 40 years.

We lost two of our community members in last Friday's bushfires, and the father of my great grandson is in Royal North Shore Hospital being treated for severe burns while trying to save his house and his deceased neighbour.

Nearly 50 per cent of our able adults are members of the Wytaliba RFS, a figure envied by many other brigades. Over those 40 years on our 3500-acre property, we have had more than a dozen out-of-control bushfires that were successfully controlled, the majority in recent years.

Over the last three years, in co-operation with NSW Forestry, National Parks and the RFS, we have had very extensive controlled burning in the state forest and national park on our perimeter.


On September 14, after an outbreak of fires across the Northern Tablelands, high winds caused embers to spot more than 10 kilometres onto the the centre of Wytaliba.

After an initial emergency the fire weather abated, but over the next week the fire spread across much of the property.

In a large operation more than 20 RFS trucks, more than 100 fire fighters, bulldozers and waterbombers were successfully deployed to help defend our homes. All were saved. Much of Wytaliba was blacked out.

Carol (Glen Innes mayor with 20 year RFS service medal) and I have a large cleared area around our double brick house.

That September fire burned to our perimeter. This was just two months ago.

Everything that should be done, was done and lots more.

The fire that came last Friday was of another order of magnitude altogether. A crown fire roaring in from the west on a hot afternoon with an 80km per hour wind, it wasn't on the ground, it was a firestorm in the air, raining fire.

it wasn't on the ground, it was a firestorm in the air, raining fire.

There was no fuel on the ground, it was already burned.

The heat ahead of the fire front ignited nearly everything in its path.

Before he saw any flame my neighbor's car exploded. They just escaped with their lives...see live footage on Monday's ABC 7.30.

Our house was severely damaged but not destroyed. We weren't home. Others were not so lucky.

Wytaliba has lost two lives and more than half our homes, our school, our bridge our wildlife and 40 years of work to build a community. What was our paradise is now ash.

Thanks to the heroics of Wytaliba RFS and residents, and the Reddestone RFS who incredibly crossed the burning bridge to help us, some was saved.

"Today's not the day to talk about climate change".....No, yesterday was the day, or the day before, or the month before, or the year before,....but it didn't get a mention.

Now we have the reality and the mention it gets is, "don't talk about it now".

So, the politicians (and the media) turn the talk to hazard reduction burns, or the lack of them, as something else to blame on the inner-city raving lunatics.

We had a bushfire two months ago that burned most of our property. It didn't matter. It burned again.

This is climate changed. We're in the worst drought recorded. A million hectares of bush has burned. Barnaby says it's Green voters and the sun's magnetic field.

Pray for rain, pray harder for leadership.

Badja Sparks is a longtime resident of Wytaliba. His home was badly damaged in Friday's fires.