‘Not a typical day’ — teen worker wins praise for efforts in keeping scrub fire from spreading

A teenage farmhand became an accidental hero after keeping a potentially disastrous scrub fire at bay.

A technician apparently sparked the blaze on farmland in Mount Gowrie Rd, near Clarks Junction in Otago, early yesterday afternoon.

Farmhand Jake Bridson, farm stock manager Jason Tisdall and farmer Jim Stevenson loaded a spray tank on to a ute and used water from it to keep the fire contained.

Speaking after the fire was extinguished, a soot-dusted and tired Mr Bridson said he was alerted to the fire by seeing the flames and the startled technician.

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"I just seen it and I was like 'oh no'," the 17-year-old said.

"He [the technician] was head in his hands.

"We lifted up the spray tank on to the truck and drove down there and were fighting it with a spray tank.

"It was not a typical day." Station Officer David Cottle, of Outram, said the fire could have been catastrophic and everyone involved was "very lucky".

"If it had been been yesterday all hell would have broken loose with the wind, and humidity was low and temperatures were so high.

"It's a miracle it didn't get into the trees and set them off." Firefighters were alerted to the fire in scrub along a fenceline at the property about 2.15pm.

Two helicopters, appliances from Outram and Mosgiel, and a tanker from Middlemarch attended the blaze, which burnt through 100sq m of scrub and had begun torching the base of adjacent trees.

Farm owner Robyn Stevenson said she was impressed by the efforts of Jake, her staff and the firefighters.

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"It could have been disastrous," she said. "It was pretty close to the house."

The technician was fixing her telephone lines, downed by a lightning strike, when the fire started.

"He was so distressed," she said. "I said 'don't worry, it's fine' and he said 'I burnt your property' and I said 'it's tidied up the fenceline'."

The farm staff had held off the fire until the helicopters arrived and probably prevented it from being serious, she said.

"They did an awesome job." The lack of phone lines and patchy mobile phone coverage had prevented the men from immediately calling the Fire Service.

Mr Cottle said the farm's staff and helicopters had extinguished the fire by the time firefighters arrived and they had only to dampen down.

After the fire, the shaken technician said he was still in shock.

Asked if he had a lucky escape, he said he came "that close".

Mr Bridson, however, was all smiles and pleased with his efforts.

When asked if he feared for his safety, he said "nah".

He conceded he was tired but he had more work to do and was soon off in the ute.