The fire fighters from the Rural Fire Service (RFS) have been out in force over the last few months as fires have continued to destroy animal habitat, threaten homes and businesses and wreak havoc in people’s lives.
For the local Byron Bay Rural Fire Brigade (BBRFB), that has meant 450 volunteer person hours on the ground, for the fires at Mt Nardi and Myall Creek/Bora Ridge in the last two weeks alone.
They are joined by the efforts of 20 other brigades in the Northern Rivers and others who have been flown in to fight the fires.
A key message from BBRFB Captain Doug Rowley is to prepare your properties whether or not you are staying to defend. It makes the firefighters’ jobs significantly easier when they are not having to try and prepare properties for defence as the flames are bearing down on them.
‘Some properties have been really badly prepared,’ said Captain Rowley.
‘At one property, we were defending, the owners had not prepared their property, so we were fighting three metre high flames, just three metres from the house. We were able to save it.’
Join the RFS
Captain Rowley said there are many ways that people can contribute to disaster response in fires and floods.
‘It’s not for everyone,’ he told Echonetdaily. ‘But it is a way that people can contribute in their local area. There is the RFS, the Brunswick Rescue Squad, Marine Rescue and State Emergency Services (SES). We don’t just need firefighters, we need people on other jobs too. For example, the SES has been been delivering meals to the RFS volunteers. There are community engagement roles for schools and Firewise meetings, truck maintenance etc.’
It is freely acknowledged that the average age of the RFS is getting older, and they are keen to get people of all ages to join up. You can join the RFS and SES from the age of 16.
‘My whole experience has been a really positive and rewarding one,’ said Captain Rowley.
‘Anyone who wants to get involved will have the same experience.’
Most RFS brigades train and meet twice a month throughout the year, and they only ask that you put in the time you can afford.
‘We understand that people’s families and jobs come first. We just ask that people put in as much time to us, as we put into them,’ said Captain Rowley.
If you join up and start training you will likely be ready for next year’s fire season. You can join up online or drop in, or call your local brigade.
Donations and fundraising
In the meantime, there are plenty of things you can join the community in doing to help them today. They are regularly collecting donations at local markets, and you can make donations to your local brigade online.
There is an RFS fundraiser at the Middle Pub in Mullumbimby this Saturday, November 30 from 3pm.
‘This is something that everyone in the community can get involved in,’ said organiser Belle Orton.
‘It is a family friendly event and we want everyone to feel welcome and comfortable. We will have the family area out the back, and throughout the afternoon there will be raffles of donated items from various businesses and people. There will be a number of local bands with a big band, yet to be announced, playing from 7.30/8pm.’
Six karma kegs and wine were donated from a range of breweries and there will be a sausage sizzle. All the proceeds will go to the RFS.
‘This is something we can give as a gift to the RFS from everyone,’ said Ms Orton.
A little harmony
The sweet soulful sounds of Isabella A Cappella will also be raising funds for bushfire volunteers and those affected by the fires at their Harmonies on the Hill concert on December 11 at 6.30pm.
‘Many are left without homes, or at risk of losing property. In these times of tragedy we are reminded of the importance of community, family, our environment and precious wildlife,’ said Dot Moller who is organising the concert.
They will be donating 20 per cent of proceeds from ticket sales. Call 0432 980 855 or email: [email protected] for more information and venue location.
Captain Rowley says support for the RFS has been ‘Nothing short of phenomenal’.
‘From just saying thank you, to businesses like the Suffolk Park Bakery supplying food, or random people paying for things for RFS members at shops.
‘The community has really been recognising the value of the RFS,’ he added.