MORRIS Allgood, of Ararat, was one of the last people to see Ken Clark alive.
The date was January 8, 1969, and Bulgana was burning.
Ken was on the back of a fire truck with two others, while Mr Allgood drove.
They were headed straight into the fires and it didn’t take long before they were over-run.
“I drove the truck away from the fire and finished up parking it in the fork of two creeks,” Mr Allgood said.
“That's what saved us all.”
All except Foreman Ken Clark, 28, father of two, husband to Margaret, footballer, nurse, and as one 1969 Ararat Advertiser article put it, ‘a brilliant fireman’.
“I remember he was talking to me through the passenger window of the truck I was driving. He jumped off the top rail while the truck was moving, and that was the last I saw of him,” Mr Allgood said.
“A while before this fire some of our members had been caught out at another fire, and they left the truck and tried to run through it.
“They all survived although some got badly burned. I think this is probably what Kenny thought on that day – that he could run through it and get out of it.”
Ken’s body was recovered shortly before midday.
“After we'd been run over by the fire, we were wondering what had happened to Ken,” Mr Allgood said.
“The next minute there was this truck came along and they had his body on it and it was absolutely terrible.
“We didn't know at the time it was him, but we knew it was.”
The silence of grief descended on the town.
“The town absolutely stood still on the day,” Mr Allgood said.
“A very moving day it was.”
A guard of honour was held, and an article in The Ararat Advertiser read as follows:
‘People stood in silence as the hearse carrying the body of Kenneth James Clark passed through Barkly street to the cemetery.
The fire station bell tolled twice each minute as the cortege turned into Stawell Road.
More than 150 cars carried more than 300 mourners to the cemetery where family, firemen and friends paid their last respects.’
Fifty years on the loss was still difficult for Mr Allgood to talk about.
“It impacted heavily on the brigade at the time and to me, Margaret and the kids being without a father, that was horrible,” he said.
“He was really well known in Ararat.
“He was a nurse at Aradale. All the Clarks were really good footballers and he was no exception.
“The brigade had a local running team and we were all really good mates.”
Mr Allgood said the reality of battling that fire was difficult to explain to anyone who hadn’t experienced it for themselves.
“The noise is that incredibly loud, and it seems like the whole air up there is alight, and it is alight because the gasses blow off the trees and they might blow a long way and burn in the mid air,” he said.
“It sounds like fifty freight trains coming.
“You can be overcome with the smoke before the fire is anywhere near you. People who have not experienced it can not understand it.
“Those hot forty degrees days, those are the problems. You just can't stop it until the winds change or the conditions change and you get the upper hand.”
Nothing will make Ken’s death easier to bear, but Mr Allgood said he also remembered the lives his brigade had saved over the years.
“I’ve been in the brigade since I was 16 and I wouldn't have it any other way,” he said.
“Even though I've had those experiences, the upside is we’ve (also) rescued people from a house near the medical centre, where I brought out two people – a little child and a guy about 20.
“The one (fire) in Avoca was just as horrendous. I realised that by our truck being there, we probably saved the lives of about 10 people.”
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