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A Blaze Aid Experience

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Space was allocated for our truck camper and we plugged a long power cord into the generator – the fifteenth cord.  We were surrounded by small trucks, caravans and even a large tent.

After the evening meal, each team leader gave a progress report on that day’s activities with an indication of how much more work was to be done on the property. Volunteers make their 4WDs available to tow BlazeAid trailers/ equipment; farmers supply wire and posts; vehicle and chainsaw fuel was made available by neighbouring unaffected farmers and fuel supply businesses; two volunteers remained at base each day sharpening and repairing tools.

Day 1 - meet farmers Rob and Therese – they escaped the fire by driving through the flames.  Two days later Rob found the windscreen wipers and rubbers had melted onto the glass. 

“It came so fast; we had been listening to radio messages and only had time to pack the computer and passports before the flames almost reached us… As we drove away the flames were reaching fifty metres ahead of the main blaze”.

As the day unfolded we rolled up a one km length of burnt fencing wire, later collected for recycling; then turned our hands to installing one hundred and seventy five star pickets, using an engine-powered post driver (known colloquially as a “wacker packer”).  Rob and his neighbour Eddy had already erected corner and strainer posts.  Over lunch we heard more of their story – of 1100 hectares, 800 were burned out; four horses were badly burned and had to be put down; seventy sheep were burned alive; Rob had cut fences to create an escape route for their prize cattle.  The fire came within fifty metres of their house.  The local brigade saved it and the tractor shed.

Therese spoke extensively with my wife during the day.  Sheep running from the fire aborted their lambs, then later returned to them. A high percentage of the population had turned to alcohol or anti-depressants to cope with the aftermath. She herself could not sleep for more than two hours, as she kept seeing the fire, and her house full of soot; she had returned to find all her fowls had died in the fire.  

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