The view from Mt.Wombat in the Strathbogie Ranges

30/3/2014 15:09

The view from Mt.Wombat

On any summers day, we in the Goulburn Valley are being watched over from afar. Geoff Broughton from his viewing site on the top of Mt.Wombat in the Strathbogie Ranges constantly scans the surrounding country for smoke rising above the trees.

Geoff who lives at Branjee near Euroa is employed by D.E.P.I, Department of Environment and Primary Industries as a Fire Lookout Observer, his twenty one years of experience of viewing from Mt.Wombat has given him invaluable knowledge of the lay of the land, the landmarks and his ability to accurately define the area when a smoke goes up.
The fire lookout tower at Mt Wombat in the Strathbogie Ranges.

Most days he can see ninety to one hundred Km from Wombat, hazy days can reduce this to sixty Km. The horizon is about one hundred Km from Wombat. Arcadia is forty three Km away in a north westerly direction, 310 degrees from the fire tower at Mt.Wombat. Geoff indicated that the Arcadia area is quite easily defined, the Arcadia – Euroa Two Chain Rd runs in a straight line from Euroa to near Arcadia, a continuation of this road would see it terminate on the Goulburn River just north of the township. This road is quite a distinctive landmark viewed from the fire tower.

Looking towards Euroa, Arcadia is 43Km distant to the left side of the photo. 

When Geoff sees a smoke rising in the distance he watches it for a few moments to make sure it is smoke and not dust that he is seeing. In the middle of his small building there is a plumb-bob hanging from the ceiling, the degrees of a compass are marked around the circumference of the room, 0 degrees being due north. By lining up the the blumb-bob with the smoke and the bearing on the wall he is able to get an accurate direction of the sighting.

Landmarks that he can see in the Goulburn Valley help Geoff to estimate the distance from Mt Wombat to where the smoke is rising. These landmarks include the Goulburn River, the Waranga Basin which is seventy Km to the near side and eighty Km to the far side of the water storage. The grain silos at Murchison East and Stanhope, the milk factory at Tatura and the old flour mill at Mooroopna add to the list of landmarks. Then to the map with ruler and compass to plot the location, he is then able to report an accurate location of where the smoke is rising from.

Geoff Broughton works out the location of a smoke sighting on the map.

To verify the sighting a cross bearing can be obtained from other fire towers that have a view across The Valley. The nearest one being situated at Growlers Hill at Rushworth which is thirty Km south west of Arcadia, which is eighty degrees from Growlers Hill, other fire towers are situated at Puckapunyal and at Mt.Hickey which is east of Broadford.

Following a definite smoke sighting time becomes a critical factor, especially on bad fire days, in getting fire tankers crewed and on the road to deal with the situation before it escalates into a major event. Geoff notifies DEPI in Benalla and Vic Fire at Ballarat of the sighting and location, the nearest fire brigades are then turned out to control the outbreak.

A typical report from Geoff would go something like this “Vic Fire this is Mt Wombat, I have a smoke sighting on a bearing of 312 degrees about forty two Km,s away, it looks like it is in the Arcadia area, near the intersection of the Goulburn Valley Fwy and the Arcadia – Tamleugh Rd, the smoke is black and is building”.

Storms that come across the area in summer time are also closely watched. A drop in the atmospheric pressure at the weather station at the fire tower can give an indication that storms could occur, Geoff records this information every hour.

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