Table 2. Burnover incidents in Australia since 1980

22 Feb 1980 "Ash Wednesday 1 Fire" LONGWOOD South Australia

The Bridgewater Tanker , a 1967 Bedford 4x2 petrol (with high sides, charged lines and fixed sprinklers, but no crew haven or window screens) with 6 crew was reversing down the road to escape a grass fire crossing in front in extreme fire weather . It ran partly off road into a burning tree and stopped. A tree branch struck the pump throttle, disabling the sprinkler system. One of the crew ran to a nearby building where he sheltered without injury, the other 5 crowded into the cabin as the truck was burned over then were forced out by heat and smoke. All 5 suffered moderate burns to the hands contacting hot metal exiting the truck. The truck was destroyed .

22 Feb 1980, "Ash Wednesday 1 Fire" LONGWOOD South Australia

The Mylor Tanker , a 1962 International 4 x 4 petrol utility (with high sides, but no charged lines, fixed sprinklers, crew haven or window screens) was abandoned on the roadway by the crew when the engine stopped after driving through smoke and flames whilst fighting a major fire in extreme weather. The crew were evacuated in another vehicle without injury. The fire passed over the truck, causing severe scorching, but it was restarted and driven away the next day.

3 Nov 1980, 1730h WATERFALL New South Wales

Headquarters Brigade Tanker 81 , a 1967 Bedford RLHC 4 x 4 petrol, (without high sides, charged lines, crew haven, fixed sprinklers or window screens) was trapped on a firetrack in bush after being ordered from the area The tanker was apparently caught by a finger of fire coming out of a gully in a sudden "blowup" . The crew of 5 were apparently burned to death sheltering under the truck. The truck did have 38mm lines that could have been used for self defense, but none had been used.

9 Jan 1983 1600h GRAYS POINT New South Wales

Heathcote Tanker 81 was a 1964 Bedford RLHC 4 x 4 petrol, (without high sides, charged lines, crew haven, fixed sprinklers or window screens), essentially similar to the Headquarters 81 Tanker destroyed in the same area 3 years before. The tanker and its 10 crew was one of a number of vehicles engaged in fire suppression in bushland on "Anana Hill". All the vehicles were ordered clear as changing conditions made the hill dangerous. The crew of Heathcote 81apparently did not appreciate the danger and were too slow to depart, and found their only exit blocked by fire. The tanker reversed back up the track away from the fire then stopped . At about the same time, a civilian on foot was spotted further up the hill and 2 crew were despatched to bring her back to the tanker. She declined to be rescued and was instead accompanied safely off the hill by one of the crew. The other man returned to the tanker. The tanker crew then lit a self defense back burn, although this apparently flared up and did not assist them. A few minutes later, the tankers engine stalled and could not be restarted. This however did not cause the burnover as the vehicle was already trapped . It was then overun by fire whilst parked on the firetrack. All of the crew sheltered outside of the truck, initially behind the front wheel, and then in a huddle in the middle of the road. Three of the crew were fatally burned, and the other 6 seriously. No attempts were made to operate hose lines for protection. The drivers cabin was too small to hold the whole crew, but survived the burnover with superficial scorching and could have provided a refuge for some.

16 Feb 1983, "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" 2050h UPPER BEACONSFIELD Victoria

The Panton Hill and Narre-Warren Tankers (both c1970s petrol International 4x4s with charged lines but no high sides, fixed sprinklers, crew haven or window screens) were part of a 5 tanker group attempting to secure the quietly burning eastern flank of a major fire on a day of extreme fire danger and multiple major fires. A forecast westerly wind change arrived early, with a 90 degree windshift and 80 km/h winds, and the eastern flank became active. The 2 tankers attempted to depart, but were overrun on a narrow fire track by fire running uphill in heavy bush. The 7 crew of the Narre-warren Tanker were all found dead, 3 in the front cabin of the truck , and 4 on the ground around the truck. The 5 crew of the Panton Hill Tanker were also found dead on the ground around their burned out truck. Two other tankers were also overrun in a clearing nearby at about the same time, sustaining serious scorching but remained operational without crew casualties.

16 Feb 1983 "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" MOUNT BONYTHON South Australia

The Carey Gully Tanker , a 1972 International 4x4 petrol (with high sides and charged lines, but no fixed sprinklers, crew haven or window screens) with 5 highly experienced crew was in transit down a steep, narrow firetrack in heavy bush on a day of extreme fire weather. They discovered a small spot fire on the uphill side of the road and were stationary fighting it when another fire "appeared from nowhere" across the track in front. The driver attempted to reverse back up the firetrack, but ran off onto the shoulder in heavy smoke and reversed into a tree. Almost immediately, the fire overran the truck "we had about 3 seconds before a fireball hit". Two crew sheltered on the floor of the drivers cabin, suffering minor burns. The rear of the truck had high sides for radiant heat protection, but the 3 dismounted crew were unable to climb back onto the rear as it was fully immersed in flame. They ran back up the fire track seeking safety. One was rescued uninjured by a private motorist further up the track , the other 2 took shelter, one in a clearing where he sustained serious burns, and the other in a culvert where he perished. The rear of the truck caught fire during the burnover, and fire subsequently consumed the truck. The cabin filled with smoke, but did not ignite until after the crew evacuated. The truck petrol tank was found to still contain fuel after the fire burned out

16 Feb 1983 "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" MCLAREN FLAT South Australia

The Echunga Tanker, a 1970,s International 4x4 petrol (with high sides and charged lines, but no crew haven, fixed sprinklers or window screens) was stationary fighting a small fire in extreme weather conditions. 2 crew were dismounted when "20 foot high flames came out of no where" Both ran back to the truck through the flames and turned a hose on for protection, receiving minor burns (no PPE worn). The truck received moderate damage and remained operational.

16 Feb 1983 "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" TEA TREE GULLY South Australia

The Tea Tree Gully Tanker , an early 1960s International 4x4 petrol (with high sides and charged lines but no crew haven, fixed sprays or window screens) was abandoned by its crew after the rear differential broke on a firetrack in heavy bush with fire approaching in extreme fireweather conditions. The crew ran to a nearby clearing and survived the passage of the fire without injury. The truck was burned over and destroyed by fire.

16 Feb 1983 "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" EIGHT MILE CREEK South Australia

The Eight Mile Creek Tanker , a 1964 International Acco 4x4 petrol (with high sides, but no charged lines, crew haven or window screens) was travelling up a lane way flanked by high grass and scrub to protect a house from an approaching fire on a day of extreme fire weather. Fire jumped the road, passing over the truck. Two firefighters on the truck received serious burns, the truck received minor damage.

16 Feb 1983 "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" ANSTEY’S HILL South Australia

The Cudlee Creek Tanker, an early 1970’s petrol 4x4 Willys Truck (with high sides and charged lines, but no fixed sprays, crew haven or window screens) suffered engine failure, thought to be due to petrol vaporisation , as a scrub fire approached, driven by extreme fireweather conditions. The rear crew abandoned the vehicle on the roadway and ran to a clear area nearby where they waited for the fire to pass. One was caught by the fire and seriously burned. The driver sheltered in the cabin as the fire passed over and was uninjured. The rear of the appliance caught fire as the fire passed over the truck, leading to it’s subsequent destruction.

16 Feb 1983, "Ash Wednesday 2 Fire" BRANXHOLME Victoria

A private fire truck operated by a CFA member and his father was overrun by fire when the pump and vehicle engine stalled. One sustained fatal burns attempting to outrun the fire. The other sheltered in the truck and survived.

1990 RIDGEWAY New South Wales

ISUZU 4x4 dual cab diesel Tanker (with high sides, charged lines, and fixed sprinklers but no window screens) was parked in front of houses on a ridgetop with fire approaching uphill in heavy bush. The fire was still a kilometre away when it spotted over the ridgetop onto the base of the slope behind the vehicle then ran back upslope towards the truck. With their escape route cut, the crew were forced to park in a clearing on the ridgetop and await the arrival of converging crown fires. Spray Bars were used, driven by truck pump. The fire passed over in a deluge of sparks whilst the crew sheltered in the cabin. All 3600 litres of water available were consumed by the spray system during the burnover and the crew then bailed out during the burnover and sheltered behind a nearby house. The truck was seriously scorched, and the rear caught fire with significant external damage, but no crew injuries.

22 Sept 1991 1220h "Swampy Fire" TOOLARA Queensland

3 crew in 2 light Toyota 4WD traytop units (without high sides, charged lines, crew haven, window screens or fixed sprinklers) responded to a fire in a pine forest in unusually severe fireweather conditions (McCarthur FDI 48) and attempted to hold the fire on a fire track within the plantation. None donned the available PPE. They underestimated the fires rate of spread, and Vehicle 1 was quickly engulfed by flames. The occupant abandoned the vehicle and ran for safety. He survived, but was seriously burned. The 2 occupants of Vehicle 2 attempted to drive to safety along the track, but were trapped on a dead end. They turned the vehicle around and attempted to drive back through the flames to safety. In the process, the vehicle became beached on a stump and the crew sheltered inside the cabin, spraying themselves with water from the knapsack as the fire passed over. They abandoned the vehicle after about 10 minutes, at that stage finding the tyres well alight. Both suffered minor burns.

21 Jan 1997 "Creswick Fire" CRESWICK Victoria

The Glen Park Tanker , an Isuzu 4x2 diesel (with high sides, crew haven and charged lines, but no window screens or fixed sprinklers) was fighting a spot fire from a fire track in a Eucalyptus forest. Weather conditions were severe, and when threatened by the main fire, the driver turned the truck around to depart, but the engine stalled and would not restart, possibly due to an electrical fault rather than ingestion of heat and smoke ("it just ‘clicked’ and would not turn over"). The truck was then burned over from the rear. 2 crew sheltered in the cabin under a blanket and 3 in the crew haven on the rear, operating 2 fog lines for protection. The diesel pump motor continued to operate, but the remaining 1000 litres of water was expended during the burnover and the rear tyres caught fire, subsequently destroying the truck. All 5 crew survived uninjured.

2 Dec 1997 1500h SCOTSMAN’S HILL New South Wales

A party of 8 firemen were mopping up in dense scrub on the side of "Scotsmans Hill’ when a sudden hot windshift (60-70km/hr) caused a flare up " the fire moved hundreds of metres in seconds". 2 were caught on the hillside away from their vehicles and killed, a 3rd suffered minor burns.

2 Dec 1997 "Pilliga Fire" 1630h GWABEGAR New South Wales

State Forests Tanker FC 5296 (a 1990s Isuzu 4x4 Diesel with out high sides, charged lines, crew haven, fixed sprinklers or window screens) with 2 crew was patrolling a newly bulldozed firebreak in light bush. They stopped to deal with a small, small low intensity spotfire which had crossed the break when they were suddenly overrun by the main fire. They attempted to reverse to safety, but reversed off the track in dense smoke and stopped. They sheltered in the cabin as the fire passed. The cabin filled with thick smoke "from the door seals" whilst the crew sheltered under a blanket. After 3-5 minutes, the 2 were forced to bail out of the tanker. They sheltered under blankets as they ran to a clearing. One sustained moderate burns after exiting the tanker, the other was only slightly burned. The truck was destroyed.

1 Jan 1998 WINGELLO New South Wales

The Wingello Tanker , a 1980 MJR Bedford Diesel 4x4 (with crew compartment, but no high sides, charged lines, sprinklers or window screens) crewed by all 8 members of the Wingello Rural Fire Brigade was conducting a back burn with State Forests units in calm conditions from a fire trail in eucalypt forest (about 12 tonnes per hectare) to contain a small fire (caused by lightning strike) until a bulldozer arrived. A change in behaviour of the main fire was noticed and the crew withdrew from the back burn area along the fire trail. An intense transient wind, probably from a microburst from a cloud formation about 1 to 2 kilomentres away, rapidly pushed the original fire up across the fire trail as the tanker was exiting along it. Two crew sheltered in the drivers cabin, and the other 6 sheltered in the crew compartment under fire blankets. The driver was killed within the cabin. The other crew members bailed out when conditions became untenable and evacuated onto burned ground, suffering further burns from the hot ground. All 7 survivors were burned, 3 critically. The back burn area was not affected by the main fire over-run. A State Forests unit, exiting ahead of the tanker, escaped damage.

2 Dec 1998 LINTON Victoria

The Snake Valley Tanker , a 1994 Hino 4x4 diesel (with high sides, charged lines and crew haven, but no fixed sprays or window screens) with 5 crew was attacking a small spot fire from a fire track in heavy bush when the fire suddenly flared up and overran the truck. The driver "drove through 200m of flame" to reach a clearing. The rear crew used charged lines for protection but exhausted their water supply (approx 700 litres was available) and were forced to lie down on the tray as the vehicle travelled through flames. The vehicle was seriously scorched, with the battery and external fittings melting, One crew member seriously burned his hands on the hot door handle climbing into the cabin and 2 of the rear crew suffered minor burns.

2 Dec 1998 2050h LINTON Victoria

The Geelong West Tanker , an Isuzu 4x2 diesel (with high sides, crew haven and charged lines, but no window screens or fixed sprinklers) was one of 3 similar tankers on a firetrack leaving the fireground at night in mild conditions. Two trucks were over run by a sudden flare up of the fire due to a wind change in heavy bush. The 5 crew of Geelong West sheltered in the truck , but it was out of water and was destroyed in the burnover and all 5 were killed.

The similar Geelong City Tanker was on the track just ahead and was also burned over in the same incident: "within about 2 seconds we were fully engulfed, with flames coming right over the cabinthe wind was horrific". 2 crew sheltered in the cabin under blankets, the other 3 in the crew haven on the rear, operating self defense hoselines, exhausting the available 1000 litres of water just after the fire passed. The truck survived with superficial damage and no crew casualties.


High sides = vertical extensions on the tray sides for radiant heat protection

Charged Lines = hoselines which are instantly operable from the truck tray for fire suppression or self defense

Fixed sprays = permanent sprinklers fitted to the vehicle for burnover protection

Window screens = radiant heat curtains to reduce heat transmission through vehicle windows

Crew Haven = a purpose built structure on the truck tray for protection of the rear crew from fire and impact

Last updated 4 November 2014