Army, SES build pulley system to resupply bushfire-ravaged Wytaliba

NSW SES and the army helped Wytaliba residents install a pulley system to bring food. The village lost its' bridge in last year's deadly fire.
NSW SES and the army helped Wytaliba residents install a pulley system to bring food. The village lost its' bridge in last year's deadly fire.

The bushfire-affected village of Wytaliba, cut off by flooding rains, is being resupplied food and basic supplies through a flying fox installed with the help of an army drone.

Locals last week got in contact with the SES when they started running low on food.

But the emergency service found the fast-running Mann river was too dangerous to cross.

Instead the army and SES came up with an innovative solution: an army Phantom 4 drone flew materials for a pulley system to drag an Arkangel Rescue Raft across the swollen 70-metre river.

SES veteran Geoff Hanson helped talk locals through the job of installing anchors for the pulley system over RFS radio.

"We sort of had to make it up as we went," the SES local commander said.

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"Despite the fact that I've been working vertical rescue for many years I've never put a system like that together before.

"(It was) built out of components of what I do in other places just put together in a whole different process combined with a bit of flood rescue technique as well."

In less than a year the alternative community has been hit by drought, fire and now flood. Even getting to the front gate of the village is a struggle, with many roads in poor condition. Even the pulley system is banned for people.

But Wytaliba resident Kym Jermey said the community has taken a philosophical attitude.

"It's just like living in a natural disaster, whatever it throws at you each day you keep finding a way to deal with it," he said.

"I've got plenty of food, supplies all that kind of stuff, solar power, I'm fine.

"To us it's a bit comical, the whole thing."

Soldiers help SES and Wytaliba residents build the pulley system.

Soldiers help SES and Wytaliba residents build the pulley system.

Wytaliba lost its only river crossing in last year's deadly Kangawalla bushfire, as well as more than 50 homes and two lives. The village currently relies on a council-built ford, but the quick fix solution has repeatedly washed out.

A company of engineers arrived in Glen Innes last week tasked with establishing a new bridge, but the army's first solution failed when they discovered their Bailey bridges wouldn't fit.

Now army leader Lieutenant-Colonel Susana Fernandez said they could be beaten by weather conditions again if incessant rain doesn't let up.

"(We) feel for the Wytaliba community; having lost their bridge in the fire now they have assets here to help build a crossing but the rain has been such that it's flooded and we can't start on that work."

She said they need the river to drop substantially or they will be forced to leave the job to Glen Innes Severn council.

The Lieutenant-Colonel said it was the first time in her experience that an army drone had been used to build a pulley system.

SES estimates the village could be cut off for another five days.

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