Tassie hero has lucky escape in dramatic scene
TASMANIA'S fiery double-header on the latest season of Outback Truckers missed the hairiest moment of them all, says tough-as- teak logger Rick Sutcliffe.
The crew had stopped filming when Rick and his boss Adrian Bennett became trapped in the inferno that devastated the Huon River area of the state last summer.
Charged with carting bulldozers in to help create fire breaks, Rick said he and Adrian were called into the back of the Picton Valley when the out-of-control blaze "did a 360” and boxed them in.
"They were preparing to Helivac us out, then they said we'd have to spend the night out there because the helicopters couldn't get in for smoke, it was too dangerous,” recalled Rick.
"We were pretty worried; we ended up biting the bullet and just making a run for it a couple of hours later. We weren't staying out there mate.
"No one is going to sit out there and wait because you never know what's going to happen.”
Rick said it took a 15 minutes of heart-in-your- mouth hell ride through thick smoke and flames before they could relax.
Although experienced in fighting fires in the state, Rick said watching his latest appearance on Outback Truckers reminded him just how physically and mentally draining the experience was at the time.
"The whole time it was on, they were pushing and pushing to get these bulldozers as close to the fire edge as possible. They were chasing the fire, they weren't putting preventative breaks in,” he said.
"Then when they worked out we had to get ahead of the fire and try and cut it off, then the winds would change and blow it the other way.
"It was like standing in the middle of a football ground in a dust storm, and then all of a sudden the wind comes from every direction. It's hard to explain, but it was just bloody unreal.”
Rick appears on Outback Truckers in his own episode fighting the fires, while his bosses at TP Bennett & Sons Adrian and brother Neil set the scene for the epic struggle in the previous instalment.
"It's very dramatic, let me tell you - I was pretty impressed watching it back,” he said.
"It was bloody mentally draining. You've got everyone calling you on the forestry two-way radio telling you you've got to be everywhere or someone else is going to be trapped.
"It's like telling someone who lives on the border of NSW and Queensland that you are wanted in Brisbane in 10 minutes.”