A golf course operator said a “huge ball of flame” shot into the sky as a blaze ripped through the Crater Lakes heritage neighborhood in Mount Gambier.

“We were extremely lucky, thanks to the Country Fire Service and the Metropolitan Fire Service. Things could have been awful,” said Bill Burley, operator of Blue Lake Golflinks.

He said the backfire along the route helped save the facility.

“Watching the firebombers and the helicopters, it was pretty weird,” Mr Burley said.

He witnessed the event and said at one point he could hear the “fire crackling” as he stood in the parking lot with smoke billowing just 100 yards away.

He praised the efforts of firefighters on the ground and in the air, given the significant aerial water bombardment efforts that helped contain the blaze.

An infrared camera installed on Centenary Tower was able to locate the origin of the fire. (Supplied: Mooreak CFS)

Mr Burley said many firefighters were volunteers who “put their lives at risk”.

He said he feared a volunteer could die given the difficult terrain, similar to the heartbreaking tragedy that unfolded on the Coles Range earlier this month.

Mr Burley said the nearby golf course and caravan park were ready to evacuate.

Aid to the timber industry

The Green Triangle forestry sector has also played a major role in firefighting after recently investing in a Casterton-based firefighting helicopter.

The helicopter was used to draw water from nearby lakes to fight the fire.

The helicopter’s bucket can hold 1,000 liters of water.

Green Triangle Fire Alliance chief executive Anthony Walsh said he did not expect to use the Casterton-based helicopter so soon in South Australia.

Fire crews were also able to save the historic Centennial Tower.

The forestry sector had recently invested in an infrared camera at its summit.

a helicopter flying over a lake
The Green Triangle Fire Alliance’s B2 Squirrel helicopter draws water from Valley Lake. (ABC South East SA: Selina Green )

The camera uses infrared technology to determine when and where a fire has started, with the information used to investigate the origin of the fires.

Mr Walsh said the camera provided “useful information”.

Drone Warning

Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) aviation safety adviser Rob Whittle said the illegal use of drones posed a major safety risk to response teams in the air and at ground level. ground.

He said it didn’t matter whether it was private or public property, it was illegal to fly drones over emergency situations.

“Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident,” Mr Whittle said.

He said drones created a problem for firefighting planes because they could potentially bring them down.