The father of a 12-year-old boy who was rescued along with his dog while trying to escape a bushfire in a Wheatbelt town north-east of Perth says he is proud and relieved to be reunited with his son.
The fire at Mogumber burnt through about 7,500 hectares in the Shires of Victoria Plains and Dandaragan, and remains at watch and act alert level after prompting an emergency warning on Sunday.
Ivan Sturrock said he and his older son Dale had left 12-year-old Lucas at their property while they tried to help control the blaze on Sunday afternoon, when the emergency warning was still active.
“I said to my son [Lucas] if [the fire] gets into the big paddock, go down to the orange tree that’s about 3 or 4 kilometres away,” he said.
When the fire approached, Lucas grabbed the family’s two-year-old dog and jumped in his older brother’s ute.
“Then when he got there [to the orange tree] the fire was on the other side of the road, so he went down to Gillingarra Road,” Mr Sturrock said.
When Mr Sturrock and his other son went to the orange tree and found Lucas was not there, panic set in and they reported him missing.
Craig Spencer from the Bindoon Bushfire Brigade told ABC Radio Perth how they managed to find the missing boy while fighting the fire.
“We were in the middle of a paddock putting out some grassfire when a ute approached us, and Lucas’s brother was in there looking very concerned, he’d reported that his 12-year-old brother had gone missing,” he said.
“We obviously radioed in to all other units to let them know and then we all started to do a bit of a search to see if we could find him.
“We were lucky that not long after, about an hour after, we were patrolling the northern flank and came across Lucas pulled up in his ute. He was a very scared young fella.”
They drove Lucas out of the fire ground and left him in the care of police.
“The fire was at that stage very much out of control and uncontained and ferocious,” Mr Spencer said.
“The land speed that time of the day was moving about 11 kilometres an hour, very fast across wheat stubble and paddock, so we’re glad we got him out of there.
“Typical farm boy, he was pretty clever, I think the problem was he just didn’t quite know where to go and it was hard to see with all the smoke.
“So I think he probably panicked a bit and when we found him he was pulled up on the side of the road and didn’t quite know where to go.”
Mr Sturrock said he was proud of his son and relieved to have him home.
“We taught him to drive since he was about seven just in case things like this do happen and I was quite proud of him, he did exactly what we told him to do,” he said.
“When I got to him he was a bit upset and relieved.
“All of the firies, the locals and the police did a very good job.”
Dalwallinu Police Sergeant Michael Daley, who reunited Lucas with his father, said it was an important reminder for families to have bushfire action plans.
“It is fantastic we found him and got him out of danger,” Sergeant Daley said.
“But when the time is right please, we ask everybody sit down and talk to your family about if a dangerous situation like a fire comes through, especially in rural communities. Have a plan and know it.”
Sergeant Daley said police did not condone children driving unless it was necessary.
“Most kids who are on farms are sitting on mum and dad’s lap from as soon as they can walk learning how to drive the farm vehicles,” he said.
“From that aspect yes, it is very good. But from a policing aspect we don’t want them driving unnecessarily or dangerously. It is better that they learn on a controlled environment like out on the farm.
“It was great he had the driving skills to get out of there.”