9 January, 2019
After nine months supporting recovery following the South West Victoria fires, the Terang and Cobden communities said a public farewell to Blazeaid volunteers last month.
In the days following the fires in March 2018, Blazeaid volunteers set up camp to help rebuild fences that were damaged or destroyed in the fires, and stayed in the area until the job was done. The assistance not only helped with the physical recovery, but strong relationships were formed and conversations with affected farmers supported individual recovery as well.
During the nine months, 669 people volunteered for Blazeaid. The average age of the volunteers was 68 and each stayed an average of 20 days. More than 3000 kilometres of five wire fencing and 94,285 posts was put in. It was one of the longest camps in Blaze Aid history, in place for 270 days.
There were 24 different community groups that catered 16,800 meals to keep the Blazeaid crews fed including scouts, school groups and individuals.
In bidding farewell the Blazeaid team leaders singled out a small group of people that had offered support throughout the nine months in of the area. In addition to the great crew assembled by Corangamite Shire as the recovery team, one of those singled out was local CFA Group Officer Mark Roberts.
Mark had regular communication with the Blazeaid team and relayed a number of messages to recovery staff and acted as a local conduit for many communications for the duration of the Blazeaid stay. This is not a usual role for CFA, let alone, its volunteer officers.
South West Regional Commander Mark Gunning said while Mark’s operational work in the response phase was detrimental to his own construction business, he was constantly there.
“To go on and see the value of leadership in the recovery phase of the emergencies, and then stay committed to supporting the recovery at a local level, went well above the call of duty.
“I was very proud to see him acknowledged by the Blazeaid leadership for his ongoing role, which will not cease now they have moved, with recovery continuing on in the community through agencies and local government, but great acknowledgement for a fantastic effort,” RC Gunning said.
“As a sector we have long known the importance of our roles long after the teams with flashing lights have gone home, and the vast amount of work that has to be done after the smoke has cleared. If volunteers from our response agencies could all be like this it would make many of our jobs easier, and our communities more connected.”
Read more about the Blazeaid work in the south west or watch an interview with camp coordinator Christine Male.