Firey heritage to the fore

Tamra CarrGeraldton Guardian
Neighbourhood hero Darren Prunster at the end of Newton Road.
Camera IconNeighbourhood hero Darren Prunster at the end of Newton Road. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

A Utakarra man has undoubtedly made his fire chief grand-father proud after he helped fight a fire threatening homes on Newton Road.

Darren Prunster, 41, used a hose and buckets of water to stop last Wednesday’s blaze, which had already burned to within metres of houses.

The fence separating Newton Road from bushland was destroyed in the inferno, as was a shed, the private fence of a home and a caravan in a neighbour’s backyard.

Meanwhile, trees, lawn, a shade sail and bench in the front yards of other homes were burnt.

Mr Prunster, who battled the blaze in sweltering temperatures that reached 41.7C, described his decision to stay behind as “the neighbourly thing”.

Geraldton firefighters help dampen the bushland behind homes in Utakarra.
Camera IconGeraldton firefighters help dampen the bushland behind homes in Utakarra. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

“The flames were reaching maybe 40 to 50 feet in the air,” Mr Prunster said.

“When the wind blew, red hot embers just blew all over the street. I went around and turned all the gas mains off, so we wouldn’t have a problem there.

“My grandfather, Brennan Prunster, was a firefighter chief for 50 years or so, so I have a bit of an idea about it all. But you know, it was a whole community effort, everyone got involved.”

Shortly after Mr Prunster began defending homes, evacuated residents on Newton Road returned to help him keep the blackened area under control.

Mother and son Joslyn Reece and Cale Moody, who had evacuated, returned to find the fence and backyard caravan of their family’s home destroyed.

“It was worth about $2500 to $3000,” Ms Reece said.

“Fence was all burnt through.

“We were very worried because this is a family home and you have old people in their 70s living here.

“So when it was all lit up and the fire brigade and police showed up, we packed up and went.”

Cale Moody, 19, and his mother, Joslyn Reece, 46.
Camera IconCale Moody, 19, and his mother, Joslyn Reece, 46. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

Gloria Stanley-Smith, who lives opposite, had embers burn holes in a shade sail in her front yard.

Her bench and trees were also scorched.

“I’m stunned at it all,” she said.

“We’re all so lucky.”

Neighbour Dianne Fenner said the residents came together to help Mr Prunster douse the bushland fire, which were actions that did not surprise her.

“We’ve all been helping him dump water in the bush,” she said.

“The support in this street is amazing.”

Newton Road residents say they regularly come together to help each other out.
Camera IconNewton Road residents say they regularly come together to help each other out. Credit: Tamra Carr The Geraldton Guardian

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