fire volunteer help bushfires
Paul’s truck with the barbed wire feeder setup on the tray and the BlazeAid trailer loaded with all the equipment necessary to do a good job.

How to help those hindered by fire

It isn’t the burnt-out bridge decking that prevents farmers from accessing their property across the creek, it is the structural damage on the bridge supports. This may take months to be prioritised and repaired.
Scenes like this were common throughout the Nymboida area of NSW.
fire volunteer help bushfires
Kilometres of burnt-out fencing needs to be repaired and replaced.
Paul Lee replaced a burnt-out corner post on the perimeter fence alongside the main road.
fire volunteer help bushfires
Paul and Sheryl Lee hard at work volunteering.

WITH all the bushfires raging around the country, this month I have chosen to skip the regular offshore report and let readers know something about the ongoing work being done by so many volunteers after the event to benefit those hit by natural disasters, and also to ask for help, either in kind or if possible, by volunteering some time.

The devastating effect of natural disasters such as fire, flood, cyclone and drought lingers long after the initial event and it takes a lot of hard work and resources for affected people to get back to somewhere near ‘normal’ with their lives. An organisation that helps communities rebuild after natural disasters is BlazeAid.

At the time of writing, the group had thirteen camps on the go from Woodenbong on the Queensland/NSW border down through NSW, into Victoria and around into South Australia. Undoubtedly as the bushfire crisis carnage continues throughout summer, more camps will be established as resources permit.

The regional firefighters do a wonderful and skilled job of managing and fighting the fire fronts, but afterwards the gruelling work of rebuilding begins and goes on for a very long time. That is where BlazeAid, a registered non-profit charity, comes into the picture.

It relies entirely on donations and ploughs everything donated into actual support to affected rural landowners without the excesses of overheads and administration costs eating into the pool of funds. All the people involved are volunteers and all the money donated goes back into providing the necessities to put a camp together, run it properly and provide the tools and equipment that can be used to rebuild fencing and other urgent jobs on many rural properties.

Equipment includes steel fenceposts, plain and barbed wire and the associated tools of the fencing trade that can fit into specially built trailers that can be towed on site. The organisation basically exists on the donations from everyday people, sponsors, volunteer groups and individuals and the difference it makes to the survivors of natural disasters who in many cases have lost their homes, sheds, personal property, livestock and pets is amazing.

A team of BlazeAid volunteers can do in a week what would otherwise take weeks and sometimes months for landowners to do on their own and helps get rural communities back on their feet. I became curious about what BlazeAid does after seeing some interesting outcomes posted by members on the Sunland Caravan Owners Group Facebook page.

Basically, some of the members who also happen to be members of the Mitsubishi 4WD Club did some BlazeAid volunteering out Tenterfield way and collectively the ‘Mitsi’ mob replaced significant areas of burnt-out and damaged fencing and donated a sizeable sum of money to BlazeAid as well.

While enduring the never-ending run of northerly wind in the lead-up to Christmas, I had plenty of spare time on my hands and after making a few phone calls ended up towing our Sunland caravan down to Nymboida, south of Grafton and got to work learning new skills and working up a sweat.

I got lucky, being allocated to work with team leaders Sheryl and Paul Lee, farmers from Mount Tarampa on the Lockyer River who happened to be members of the Mitsi Club doing more volunteering. They started with BlazeAid volunteering in Richmond repairing flood damage and their involvement morphed into more fencing and other activities in fire-affected areas.

I had some mild reservations about how a city slicker who knows the ocean but nothing about fencing would fit in to this program. Wow, as it turns out I needn’t have worried because the local BlazeAid co-ordinator made me very welcome and filled me in on the drill. I was introduced to Sheryl and Paul who were so patient to work with, and it quickly became a privilege to be taught the skills of fencing and to work as a team with them.

Having so many mutual interests helped too. We were doing perimeter fence repairs along the main road where the bushfires had caused burning trees to fall on fences, timber fence posts to burn through, steel fence posts to bend to strange angles and various lengths of fencing wire to be broken and destroyed.

It was no picnic, but all this fire-damaged fencing had to be repaired and and replaced for public safety to restrain cattle from straying onto the road. Trust me, there was no shortage of work. What I hadn’t realised until arriving at Nymboida was that something like 100 houses in the area had been destroyed and many of these for various reasons were uninsured, or under-insured, and in nearly every case, the fences were not insured.

Driving in, it was like a scene from a war movie because burnt-out property and destroyed houses and sheds were all over the place. There were stories of carnage, humility and good luck in some cases, but it was certainly a privilege being able to do something to help, and from listening to some of the locals, BlazeAid was making a difference.

I was blown away one day to see a whole family from Gympie arrive with donated goods including whitegoods from local businesses and immediately get to work clearing fire damage on one affected property we were doing the perimeter fencing on.
They were gone the next day because they had to go back home to their jobs, but didn’t they make a difference?

Now, thousands of bushfire-affected people need help in some wayand the whole purpose of writing this is to let our readers know you can help. Whether it’s with donations of money, food or clothing, or if you can volunteer your time to do some repair work and spend a few dollars in the hard-hit rural areas, it will all benefit these communities.

Hopefully I have piqued someone’s interest to help those hindered by the devastating effects of fire with this column.

Just Google BlazeAid and take it from there.

About Bill Corten

Bill has been spearfishing, fishing and surfing for all his adult life and now runs a business specialising in teaching people how to cross coastal bars and fish offshore. He also runs charters for people who fish for the right reasons and whose company Bill thinks he will enjoy. He’s been running his bar crossing business successfully since 1996 and hopes to continue doing so for years to come as he grows old disgracefully.

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