...some of the worst bushfires N.S.W. has known ---- those of January, 1994! Aid came from interstate to quell the 165 outbreaks, and 4 people lost their lives. John (Keith Ingram's eldest son) came up from "Koendidda" to assist. "La Mancha" itself experienced 4 spot fires from Jan. 8th, and we lost almost our entire crop of alstroemeria, mainly from scorching. We were unable to get medical assistance for Jean to relieve the effects of smoke inhalation for some days. Likewise, we had no electricity, all roads were cut and there was no telephone for 10 days.
Another major fire worthy of mention was the Grose Fire in the summer of 1982. This started in the Bell area and very rapidly spread to the area behind the 'Fruit Bowl' at Bilpin in a matter of hours. A combination of northerly winds and undergrowth reduction prevented the fire from encroaching on Mount Tomah. The Brigade was involved with those from Bilpin and Kurrajong Heights and officers of the National Parks and Wildlife Service - complete with helicopter - in back-burning to protect the Bilpin area. This operation was highly successsful. The damage done to the Grose Valley was very extensive as the fire was extremely hot.
The 1979 fire directly affecting the Mount Tomah area was deliberately lit in December in the Lithgow area. (The offender has since been caught and charged.) During a succession of extreme fire danger days and inspite efforts to contain it, the fire had reached the Mount Wilson area in four days. That night the Mount Tomah brigade was directly involved in back-burning operations. Unfortunately the fire blew across the area burnt the night before and moved toward Mount Tomah. The following night further attempts were made to hault the fire's progress on Bell's Line of Road. This effort was unsuccessful and the fire reached the end of Skyline Road and the end of Old Bell's Line of Road in a two-pronged attack on Mount Tomah. Much damage to the flora and property was caused at that time.
A change in weather and a great amount of help from other brigades and authorities finally saw an end to the fire. Eighty-four brigades helped, coming from Baulkham Hills, Warringah, Liverpool, Blacktown, Sutherland, Camden, Hornsby, Ku-Ring-Gai, Colo, Lithgow and Fairfield. Help was also given by the NSW Fire Brigades, Police, Ambulance, National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the Army with its heavy equipment. It was calculated that on that day 25,000 man-hours were expended.
In November 1968, a disastrous fire raged throughout the Blue Mountains area, north to Mountain Lagoon and south to Springwood and other main-road towns. It moved westward over a period of weeks and finally reached the eastern slopes of Mount Tomah, damaging orchards and threatening homes on its way. In this period of extreme heat and high wind Mount Tomah was in a state of virtual seige by fire. The brigade's city worker members were called to the scene. Invaluable assistance was given by Bilpin, Wilberforce and Mountain Lagoon brigades together with reinforcements from Blue Mountains teams, despite their own problems.(From Keith Ingram's 'Recollections In Tranquillity', 2002)
In late November, a bushfire at Mt Tomah was unique, in that it came at us from the east ---- from the Bilpin sawmill. On Wednesday, 27th, we fought it at Tony Hungerford's ('Cadelgo' in Berambing). By Friday it had attacked us head on, moved around to the south end and then come at us from the west, and sweeping down to the future Botanic Gardens site. Unique---- because, at first, it had to work its way against the prevailing wind (a westerly).
John (Keith Ingram's eldest son) and I both had to take leave to fight it, and Reg Hardwick came up to lend a hand. (John was serving on "Stalwart" at the time). This fire did little damage on the north side of the Grose, but, if I recall correctly, destroyed 52 houses at Springwood. Overall, 14 people lost their lives.
The bushfire of 2nd December, 1957, was devastating to the Blue Mountains, especially to Mt Tomah. We (Keith and Jean Ingram) had spent the weekend there, returning to Forbes the day before it struck. It was an extremely hot day, with seering winds. Craigie (Arthur Craig), as spotter for the embryonic fire brigade, went to the west of the property, and saw the fire on Mt Bell. He raced to the phone, but his accompanying spaniel collapsed in the heat. Bending to retrieve the poor dog, Craigie felt the blast as it swept by: the fire had jumped from Mt Bell to Tomah and passed by him before he could reach the house! Five people died ---- four of them in the Blue Mountains.
When Jean got back to Tomah a week later, green shoots were already appearing on the bracken, but most of the plantings of Pinus radiata were dead, and not a leaf remained on the apples. Miraculously, the house (at La Mancha, Lot 78B Old Bell's Line of Rd) was undamaged, although in 1944 the Powells recorded that the fire of that year burnt the sarking around the window slots.(The house was in course of construction).