Emergency crews worked together and saved lives


Captain John Milgate directing the fire fighting effort as the Bourke & District Memorial Hall burns to the ground. PHOTO TWH

NSW Fire and Rescue Captain, John Milgate, said the response from emergency units and the assistance of locals saved buildings and lives during last week’s devastating fire at Diggers.

Captain Milgate said the fire destroyed the Bourke and District Memorial Hall and the Diggers on the Darling building in astonishing speed.

“We were there at 3.30pm and by 4.05 the hall had started to collapse,” he said. “Fire doesn’t wait for anyone.

“We deployed crews in 233 pump and 233 tanker with 13 crew on the ground, assisted by Bourke RFS who also called in their Byrock unit and the Brewarrina-Cobar unit as well as the Cobar Black Panther which is a bulk water tanker and the Bre water tanker. Police and ambulance also attended.

“We surrounded and drowned the site, after evacuating Oxley Street and the western end of Mitchell Street for the safety of residents because of the smoke, and then went to work to protect the Gidgee Guesthouse,” Captain Milgate said.

Like the rest of the community, the loss of such an important part of the community has hit hard.

“I spent many days waiting for my parents there, at social discos, as a club member, enjoying meals,” he said.

“The loss of all that memorabilia - we have lost history, the photos are irreplaceable, all the belongings of the Parnabys – it’s very sad to turn up to do your job and be confronted with that.

“I want to thank the nearby workers who helped evacuate the staff from their flat above the restaurant and all the emergency crews who worked at the scene.

“It showed how the Bourke community can come together. We couldn’t save the building, but we saved the infrastructure, the power lines, the Gidgee Guesthouse – and lives,” he said.