Father-son dozer team braves fire front to save homes
FORMER firefighter John Barrett jumped at the chance to be able to help his old colleagues while saving homes in the path of a raging bushfire.
The 73-year-old humbly described the path he and his son Rick Barrett bulldozed to protect homes on Arcoona Rd as fire approached from the nearby Coolum industrial estate.
Mr Barrett was a firefighter on the Sunshine Coast for 41 years before he had to retire in 2009 because he reached the age of 65.
He then started his South Eastern Equipment and Earthmoving business, continuing to work full-time.
Fire authorities called him for help about 1pm Friday.
"They were desperate for some earthmoving equipment," Mr Barrett said.
He loaded one of his D6-sized bulldozers on a truck and had Clayton's Towing bring another one to the homes on Arcoona Rd.
Rick came from his electrician job to help him.
Residents were being evacuated and the road was closed as Mr Barrett and Rick cleared fire breaks between the oncoming fire and the rear of homes.
Mr Barrett went first, knocking down the majority of the scrub and Rick came in behind to ensure the road was passable for rural fire trucks.
He kept looking for an exit as the approaching fire front neared.
It came within 20m of them in a few places.
"It was pretty close."
Rural firefighters came behind them to back burn towards the approaching fire front.
"It was extremely hot."
They reached the northern end of Arcoona Rd shortly before sunset.
Mr Barrett then went up to Peregian Springs and worked into the night pushing fire breaks around the Heron Rd area.
His was the only dozer with lights so Rick left him to it.
Mr Barrett got back to his Palmwoods home about 2am.
His wife Ruth said she had been worried about him.
"I couldn't sleep," Mrs Barrett said.
"I was just so happy to see him."
The call for help came again on Saturday, about 9am.
Mr Barrett went back to Peregian Springs to continue cutting a fire break near houses in the area of Heron Rd.
He knocked off about 5pm, roughly an hour after rain started to fall.
"When they called us it was a red hot day and it was a threat but that slowly diminished as the rain came in," Mr Barrett said.
He said it was exciting to help firefighters out and catch up with some former colleagues.
"I love working and I've got enough health to continue on."
The father of six and grandfather of 12 said he missed being a firefighter.
"I loved every minute of it."
Mrs Barrett said she was proud of her husband and son's efforts, as she was proud of all of her family.
"We are a very close family."