Two people killed in RFS truck tragedy

Two people were killed in an RFS truck late last night, ending a horror day for crews battling more than 100 blazes across NSW.

Emergency services were called to Wilson Dr, Buxton, just before 11.30pm.

Police said it was believed the truck hit a tree before rolling off the road.

The driver and the front passenger died at the scene. Three other passengers were injured and were treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics. It is believed they were travelling in a convoy when the accident happened.

A crime scene has been established and an investigation will take place.

The RFS called it "an absolutely devastating event in what has already been an incredibly difficult day and fire season".

"The service's thoughts are with all the firefighters' family, friends and fellow brigade members," the RFS said in a statement.

Earlier in the day, two firefighters were hospitalised in ­induced comas after their truck was enveloped by flames.

Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said an RFS crew of five was overrun by fire at Bargo.

­Colleagues fought the flames to administer first aid before paramedics arrived.

Mr Fitzsimmons said two men, aged 56 and 36, had suffered serious burns to their faces, bodies and airways, and needed to be intubated and placed in induced comas.

They were flown to Concord Hospital's burns unit.

A female crew member was taken to Liverpool Hospital suffering burns and smoke inhalation and two other volunteers were treated by paramedics at Bargo Showground.

 

RFS captain Jon Russell and his crew from Cottage Point on the northern beaches narrowly escaped death when the fire engulfed them at Buxton. Picture: Rohan Kelly
RFS captain Jon Russell and his crew from Cottage Point on the northern beaches narrowly escaped death when the fire engulfed them at Buxton. Picture: Rohan Kelly

In Buxton, a sharp southerly wind change forced the roaring fire on to the town, trapping RFS captain Jon Russell and his crew from Cottage Point in their vehicle as flames licked at the truck - their hoses melted, their mudguard was destroyed.

A firefighting veteran of 40 years, Mr Russell thought they were doomed.

"As I got out of the driver's seat they came back screaming 'get back in the truck get back in the truck'. We stuck hard up against the garage because it was on the only thing I could see. You couldn't see anything," he said.

"It was unbelievable the speed that moved at. Of all the days I have been a firefighter today is the only day I thought it would be my last."

Desperately they radioed for help and were saved when backup crews arrived.

 

 
 

About 2000 firefighters are on the ground and another 500 volunteers are on standby for the worsening conditions. There are 106 fires burning, 53 not yet contained.

Just 80km to the city's north west, the giant Gospers Mountain fire is bearing down on Mt Wilson, Mt Irvine and Itchenstroke where residents were told it was too late to leave and warned it could get worse overnight as the southerly change blew flames back onto them. In Bilpin, residents were told to seek shelter.

The apocalyptic scene near the Old Hume Hwy, close to Tahmoor. Picture: Dean Lewins
The apocalyptic scene near the Old Hume Hwy, close to Tahmoor. Picture: Dean Lewins

"This is as bad as it gets," Kerin Lambert, duty commander Fire and Rescue, said as he turned back vehicles outside Balmoral. "Firefighters have performed absolutely courageously in the face of absolute peril."

The state of emergency declaration allows Mr Fitzsimmons to direct any NSW government agency to conduct or refrain from conducting its functions. It is the second state of emergency declared in the bushfire season. The last, in mid-November, was the first since 2013.


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