Celeste Barber’s $51 million bushfire fund decision due next week

The Daily Telegraph reported that the legal deadlock over how to spend more than $51 million raised by comedian Celeste Barber during Australia’s summer bushfire crisis will be broken within a week.

The NSW Rural Fire Service wants to help victims by passing some money to other charities while also using it to support injured fireys and the families of heroes who lost their lives.

But the RFS fears the cash bonanza can only be spent on equipment and training under strict rules, and on Monday sought advice from the NSW Supreme Court.

In January Ms Barber mobilised her 7 million Instagram followers globally to donate the record-breaking sum to the RFS, and the body’s barrister said it is “enormously grateful” for their goodwill.

“Ms Barber’s appeal was obviously a spectacular success and the donors, citizens of this state, citizens of Australia and more broadly citizens throughout the world were extremely generous in a time of considerable need,” Jeremy Giles SC said. “Our clients will, if within power, give anxious consideration to a fund for injured or fallen volunteer firefighters if to do so were in their power.”

Mr Giles said the RFS and Brigades Donations Fund trust want to honour the wishes of Ms Barber, who pledged to help victims from fire-ravaged communities and animals by passing some of the staggering sum onto WIRES, the Red Cross and interstate brigades.

The full story is here.

Villers-Bretonneux mayor who led bushfire commemorations dies of COVID-19

About Regional reports the Mayor of Villiers-Bretonneaux a French village inextricably linked with Australia since WWI, and with the Bega Valley in particular, has died from COVID-19.

Dr Patrick Simon died on Wednesday, and a statement from his family described him as their “hero”.

He had been the village’s mayor since 2008 and recently led fundraising and commemorative efforts that recognised the devastating toll of the past summer’s bushfires in Australia. He was awarded an honorary Order of Australia medal in 2015.

Villagers from the northern French hamlet of Villers-Bretonneux have tended the friendship with Australia for more than a century. The village is the final resting place for more than 2000 Australian and Commonwealth servicemen, and the people of Victoria paid to rebuild the local school after the devastation of the Great War.

Increased aerial support for next bushfire season

The Macleay Argus reports that the nation’s aerial firefighting capability has received an annual $11 million boost to ensure additional aircraft are available for the 2020-21 and future bushfire seasons.

Minister for Emergency Management, David Littleproud, said the additional funding, bringing the annual Australian Government investment to $26 million, would increase aerial firefighting capacity across the country, helping the States and Territories to prepare for summer.

“The $11 million boost to the national aerial firefighting fleet was announced in January by Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and comes on top of the $15 million we already deliver each year for aerial firefighting,” Mr Littleproud said.

“In previous fire seasons, these aircraft have been a comforting sight for people living in and around the bush.

“We recognise the vital role that aerial firefighting plays in protecting communities, and it’s their integration with the hard work of firefighters on the ground, along with a well-prepared community, that makes the difference.

“Most importantly, this investment by the Australian Government will save lives and property.”

Suspected electrical fault sparks blaze at Woodstock Hotel

The Cowra Guardian reports that Canobolas RFS District Officer, Lachlan Allan, said RFS crews were notified of a structure fire at the hotel at approximately 10.44am on Monday.

“A crew from Woodstock Brigade were notified locally by residents and responded straight away,” Mr Allan said.

“When they got onsite, they observed smoke issuing from the second storey of the hotel.

“They straight away got to work with hose lines to try and fight the fire externally as they didn’t have breathing apparatus to go internally, that was the safest option until Fire and Rescue showed up from Cowra.

“They then got to work with Fire and Rescue and were able to contain the fire to three rooms within the second story of the hotel and they’ve been on site ever since.”

Kangaroo Flat RFS, as well as Cowra Police also attended the scene.

Mr Allan said early indications suggest an electrical fault sparked the blaze, which has caused fire, smoke and water damage to at least three rooms on the second storey of the establishment.

“At the moment, investigation keeps going but it’s been deemed as a suspected electrical fault in one of the rooms, resulting in the fire igniting,” he said.

“No suspicious circumstances at this stage, although further investigation will most likely follow on.

“No occupants were in the building at the time.”

Southern Tablelands firefighters commended for bravery

RiotACT reports that a group of Southern Tablelands firefighters have been honoured for their bravery at the scene of a car accident south of Cooma in March 2019.

The contingent of 16 firefighters have been awarded the Commissioner’s Certificate of Commendation (Unit) following their actions at a single vehicle accident which saw the rescue of a trapped elderly man.

The commendation was awarded on Monday, 4 May – St Florian’s Day, which is named after the Patron Saint of Firefighters and traditionally recognises incredible acts of bravery in protecting the community or delivering the highest level of commitment to the service that is worthy of special recognition.

For NSW Rural Fire Service Southern Tablelands Zone Strike Team Echo 1, the commendation comes from their actions on March 10, 2019, after they left the Southern Tablelands to assist colleagues with bushfires at Dargo in Victoria.

The strike team consisted of crews and combined crews that had for the most part, according to the NSW Rural Fire Service, never worked significantly or at all with any of the other crew members.

They had been drawn from the Southern Tablelands Zone which comprises 63 volunteer brigades across the local government areas of Upper Lachlan, Goulburn Mulwaree and Yass Valley.

About half an hour south of Cooma, the strike team came upon a single motor vehicle accident on the Monaro Highway, in which the vehicle had left the road and was precariously placed on its side in a deep culvert, with the bleeding and trapped elderly male driver still seatbelted in the upper part of the wreck.

According to the citation, a number of firefighters stabilised the vehicle by hand while others made the electrical system safe and provided external protection, traffic management, called for assistance and a range of other tasks.

OzHarvest makes a special delivery of hampers to Wingham Showground for bushfire victims

The Wingham Chronicle reports that OzHarvest Newcastle hasn’t forgotten the bushfire victims.

The food rescue charity made the trek up the highway to Wingham Showground on Wednesday, May 13 to deliver 50 hampers containing non-perishable items such as bread, fruit, vegetables, soups and pasta.

A food appeal was held at the start of the year to raise money and collect food for the drop-off to Wingham.

OzHarvest Newcastle’s Nicki Lembcke wanted to assure bushfire victims they weren’t an afterthought given the current coronavirus crisis.

“It’s just as important as anything else because these people are on a long road to recovery,” Nicki said.

“It’s our main service and our core value is to do anything we can to help out.

“We collected supplies from Woolworths as well and drove up with the special delivery.”

It’s the first time the group had delivered hampers to Wingham. They will be delivered in person by BlazeAid volunteers.

‘Profound implications’: study finds evidence of palawa land management and ‘vindicates’ Henry Hellyer

The Advocate reports that a groundbreaking study has found evidence of extensive land management and fire-stick farming by Aboriginals in the North-West prior to the arrival of Europeans.

And it could also rewrite the history of one of Tasmania’s most famous European explorers: VDL surveyor Henry Hellyer.

The study involved drilling deep into the ground at Surrey Hills to see how the landscape had changed over time.

After dating and analysing the core, the researchers found grass, eucalyptus and charcoal were abundant in older soils but disappeared after the arrival of Europeans and were replaced by rainforest.

Michael-Shawn Fletcher, who led the study, said that indicated Surrey Hills was once dominated by grasslands that attracted kangaroos and were maintained by the palawa people through fire-stick farming.

“Then as soon as you get the arrival of things like wheat pollen from Europe … charcoal virtually disappears and you start getting a shift in ecological terms,” he said.

The researchers contend rainforest trees started to creep into the grasslands once the palawa people were no longer maintaining them through fire.

Project to bring bushfire images together

Photos and videos that capture the harrowing experiences of Australia’s bushfires crisis and the recovery efforts will be brought together so future generations understand what happened.

Nine News reports that the national bushfires royal commission wants to ensure the stories and images from the unprecedented 2019-20 blazes become part of Australia’s historical record.

“The images that tell the story of the 2019-20 bushfires are scattered in the wind,” commissioner Annabelle Bennett said.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements on Friday launched its 2019-20 bushfires history project to bring the unique stories and images together.

“We’re creating a collection that will allow future generations to understand what happened, and the effect these fires had on Australians,” commissioner Andrew Macintosh said in a video message.

Commission chair Mark Binskin said many people have shared photos and videos taking during the recent bushfires with the inquiry.

He said the history project was the chance for people to record their personal experiences and contribute to Australia’s historical record.

The commission wants people to submit videos or photos taken during the fires or the ongoing recovery, as well as short video accounts about their experiences.

Kangaroo Valley’s rock-wallaby colony survives after devastating bushfire

The Illawarra Mercury reports that theentire colony of brush-tailed rock-wallabies in Kangaroo Valley has been saved after bushfires devastated the region.

Emergency food drops helped the endangered marsupial survive in the wake of their habitat being destroyed.

State Environment Minister Matt Kean said the life-saving food included carrots and sweet potatoes, as part of the Saving our Species program.

“Since the Currowan fire burnt endangered brush-tailed rock-wallaby habitat near Kangaroo Valley in early January, National Parks and Wildlife Service rangers trekked into the region every week to provide food for the hungry wallabies and ensure their survival,” Mr Kean said.

“After the ferocious fires, it was a welcome relief to hear monitoring cameras and the GPS collars confirmed all the wallabies survived the blaze. Rangers trapped several wallabies to assess their health and removed GPS tracking collars.  “It was great to hear the wallabies were in good health, with one wallaby identified as a joey that was not previously known.

“This level of intervention is vital to help maintain these colonies and allow them to recover. At this stage feeding is expected to continue until natural food resources and water become available in the landscape during post fire recovery.”

Thousands of kilograms of carrots and sweet potatoes were delivered to wallabies in the Capertee and Wolgan region, Yengo National Park, Kangaroo Valley, Jenolan and Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, in the immediate aftermath of the bushfires helping to ensure the survival of the endangered iconic species.

Farmers still waiting for government bushfire loan applications to be assessed

The New Daily reports that it has been just over four months since fire nearly destroyed Dan Tarasenko’s free-range chicken farm at Quaama, on the outskirts of Cobargo on the New South Wales south coast.

His paddocks are looking lush and green again, but Mr Tarasenko said his business was struggling to get going after the terrible New Year’s Eve blaze.

“Damage-wise we probably lost a million dollars. We lost 15 kilometres of fences. There was damage to infrastructure on the farm, not including lost income which could’ve been upwards of a $100,000 per month,” Mr Tarasenko said.

Despite promises from politicians and the Bushfire Recovery Taskforce to speed up the rollout of bushfire grants and loans, farmers on the NSW south coast have told 7.30 they are being tied in knots by red tape, or struggling to simply get their applications processed at all.

Riverina RFS reported on their Facebook page they had completed the Wagga Botanical Gardens HR Burn

Riverina RFS reported on their Facebook page they had completed the Wagga Botanical Gardens HR Burn

“The burn was very successful and all firefighters have left the area. Residents close to Willans Hill in the Turvey Park and Mount Austin area will notice smoke rising and users of the park may notice flames within the burn area tonight. Please don’t be alarmed as the fire continues to smoulder and burn out small pockets of unburnt fuel.

Firefighters from Fire + Rescue will patrol later this evening and firefighters from the NSW RFS will return Monday and Tuesday morning to patrol and black out any active hotspots that remain.

A very big thank you to all those who took time away from their families to assist with completing this hazard reduction burn.”

Hazard reduction burn in Pilliga Nature Reserve

The Mirage reported that National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is conducting a hazard reduction over the next three days in Pilliga Nature Reserve north of Coonabarabran.

The 153 hectare burn will be carried out 10km north of Coonabarabran, west of the Newell Highway between Oxley Highway and Narawa Road.

The low-intensity burn will reduce fuel loads and help protect private properties from potential wildfire.

Smoke may be visible for several days.

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