RFS Get Ready Weekend held September 19-20

The Batemans Bay Post reported that the Eurobodalla Shire Council is encouraging families, friends and neighbours to use the NSW Rural Fire Service Get Ready Weekend on September 19-20 to prepare for the bushfire season.

The NSW RFS will host its annual Get Ready Weekend on September 19-20, in person and online, to support early planning and preparation.

The bushfire danger period in the shire began on September 1.

The local RFS branches of South Durras, Long Beach, Batemans Bay, Broulee, Bingie, Tuross Head, Bodalla, Belowra, Nerrigundah, Dalmeny, Narooma, and Central Tilba (at Mystery Bay) will all be holding Get Ready events this year.

They include live-streamed events on social media, and public information sessions with COVID-19 restrictions in place.

Mayor Liz Innes said the prospect of facing another fire season was difficult to think about with our community still reeling from the 2019/20 bushfires: “The 2019/20 bushfire season was the most devastating bushfire season in our state’s history. It was a stark reminder of the danger of fire.”

“It was also a reminder of the importance of being prepared and having a plan.”

Cr Innes said the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements observed that all Australians, particularly those in high-risk areas, must take steps to prepare themselves and their families for natural disasters.

“I encourage residents to talk with your neighbours about getting ready – and offer help to our older community members if you can,” she said.

“Those who don’t know where to start can reach out to their local RFS brigade, or visit the RFS website www.rfs.nsw.gov.au – it has lots of great resources on how to be prepared.”

Commissioner of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons encouraged everyone to have a conversation around being prepared for emergency, whatever the hazard may be.

“Each year, communities across NSW may experience bushfires, home fires, floods, storms, heatwaves, power outages and other emergencies,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

“This year alone has been one of unparalleled emergencies. Communities across NSW were first impacted by drought, bushfire, then storm and flood, now pandemic – and all in quick succession. This has highlighted how important it is to be prepared for all hazards.

“Our emergency service organisations do an incredible job keeping us safe, but they can only do so much. Being aware and prepared is everyone’s responsibility.”

The RFS advises you can get ready in five simple steps:

Know your risk – think about the area you’re in and the types of disasters that could affect you;

Plan now for what you will do – sit down and talk with your family and plan for what you will do if a disaster affects your area;

Get your home ready – prepare your home by doing general home maintenance and checking your insurance coverage;

Be aware – find out how to prepare, what to do if there is a disaster in your area and connect with NSW emergency services to stay informed;

Look out for each other – share information with your family, friends, neighbours and those who may need assistance.

Koala search team ready for bushfire season

Mirage News reported that

With Australia’s bushfire season fast approaching, a team that specialises in finding koalas in fire-ravaged locations is gearing up for another huge effort.

After last summer’s fires destroyed vast tracts of bushland across eastern Australia, USC’s Detection Dogs for Conservation team spent many days searching for surviving koalas using heat-seeking drones and the now world-famous USC x International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) koala detection dog Bear.

The detection dogs team, which was co-founded in 2015 by USC researchers Associate Professor Celine Frere and Dr Romane Cristescu, searched for koalas across more than 5,000 hectares of land in partnership with IFAW.

Dr Cristescu said the team was now bracing itself for another long summer of scouring scorched bushland.

“While it is unlikely that we will see bushfires to the scale of last year, we are still preparing for multiple fires that can impact many hectares of koala habitat during the next fire season – especially, this year, Queensland has higher than average risk of bushfires,” Dr Cristescu said

“We expect we might be called upon, with our partners at IFAW, by different wildlife rescue groups, to help them locate koalas – as with drones and dogs we can find many koalas that otherwise can escape the naked human eye. And in places such as QLD and NSW, where populations are already declining, every koala counts.

“Last year we found koalas struggling with and dying from burns, dehydration and malnutrition weeks after the fires had been contained, and we were able to find help for them. That is why we are preparing now for the 2020-2021 season.”

BlazeAid and Upper Murray bushfire recovery continues in shadow of coronavirus

The Newcastle Herald reported that nine months has elapsed since the Upper Murray NSW bushfires bore down on the region, indiscriminately scorching paddocks and homes.

The heat has gone, as has the eerie orange haze that settled in nearby towns and cities.

Masks are no longer worn to protect from hazardous air, and the smoke that blanketed the region and filled residents’ lungs is just a bad memory.

The world moved from one crisis to another, green shoots sprung and the country’s collective focus shifted.

But region was far from recovered.

BlazeAid Jingellic and Walwa camp coordinator Natalie Trigwell said people’s thoughts had moved on from the fires, and many did not realise just how much recovery work was still left.

“Bushfires were such a big thing, then COVID came along… everyone’s focus suddenly shifted,” she said.

“There’s a lot of regrowth and visually it’s not that shocking impact you see immediately after fires, so it tends to disappear from social conscience.

“If the general public drive through, they can think it’s recovered because it’s green. They don’t understand recovery as far as fencelines, recovering fields, animals and infrastructure on farms takes many, many years.”

This week, BlazeAid has been working on the hills of Mick and Lyn Sutcliffe’s Valley View property near Tintaldra.

When the fires came through over summer, 100 per cent of the property was burnt.

Since then, cattle have returned to the farm and charities, friends and strangers have helped Mick and Lyn rebuild slowly.

Mr Sutcliffe said he had no idea where they’d be without the support of Rotary, Lions, Fencing for Fires, BlazeAid and individuals.

JOIIN IN: BlazeAid volunteer erect fencing at Valley View. Workers range from international couples to retirees of differing skill levels. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

 JOIIN IN: BlazeAid volunteer erect fencing at Valley View. Workers range from international couples to retirees of differing skill levels. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

“Probably in the nuthouse somewhere, I don’t know,” he said.

“Nowhere near where we are now. I’m not very good with words, you just can’t describe the effort they put in and what it means.”

Mr Sutcliffe said having extra hands on the farm made a huge difference.

“BlazeAid are going gangbusters,” he said.

“They’re fantastic, yesterday they probably did a month’s worth of work for us in a day pulling down fences.”

Mr Sutcliffe said there was about three kilometres of boundary fence left to fix, but at the rate BlazeAid was working it’d be done in no time.

Valley View. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

 Valley View. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

The volunteers and workers devoting their time to BlazeAid are varied in nationality and background but united by their willingness to work and eagerness to help.

For Ms Trigwell, being trapped by a firefront near Glenreagh last November inspired her to get involved.

“I found myself stranded, without work and surrounded by fire,” she said.

“After getting help I decided I wanted to find a way to pay it forward.”

Since then she’s visited and worked at every fire zone in NSW, except Mudgee.

“You can’t fix all their problems but you can give them a hand up,” she said.

“It’s so rewarding.

“Seeing a farmer on the first day when you encounter them, they’re often so overwhelmed with the work load and don’t know where to start.

“After a few days their faces just light up. They just need that extra hand, it’s such a big job on your own.”

DEDICATED: Wodonga's Bob 'Bobcat' Reid working on Mick Sutcliffe's property. He has spent his long-service leave volunteering for BlazeAid. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

 DEDICATED: Wodonga’s Bob ‘Bobcat’ Reid working on Mick Sutcliffe’s property. He has spent his long-service leave volunteering for BlazeAid. Picture: TARA TREWHELLA

Wodonga’s Bob ‘Bobcat’ Reid has devoted his long-service leave to working in the fire-affected area of Upper Murray, Wingham and Tumbarumba.

“I’m comfortable, they’re not,” he said.

“A lot of destruction happened during the fires and they’re against the wall, why not help them as much as we can?”

Mr Reid spent about 27 years in the army and knows the importance of supporting your own.

“It’s very important, they’re people in our community… without them where do we get our food from?,” he said,

“Farmers out there are doing a magnificent job and helping each other, so us coming from regional areas to come into spots and make it easier for them to get on with their life, it’s good.”

Argentinian couple Tina Della and Felipe Sabatte have been involved in several Blaze Aid projects.

 Argentinian couple Tina Della and Felipe Sabatte have been involved in several Blaze Aid projects.

For three weeks BlazeAid has been working in the Upper Murray, based out of two camps on opposite sides of the Murray, to make working across the border easier.

The camps will run for months, and Ms Trigwell encouraged property owners and volunteers to register on 0497 717 605.

“We don’t want anyone left behind because they didn’t realise we were back,” she said.

Bushfire response to adopt coronavirus measures including temperature checks, sanitisation of fire trucks

The ABC reported that as the Black Summer bushfires ravaged more than 100 local government areas, residents forced to flee their homes huddled together in nearby evacuation centres.

Some, like the Bega evacuation centre in New South Wales, were packed with people for several days, as the fires blocked roads in and out of the town.

But this bushfire season will be different.

The COVID-19 pandemic means those who have lost their homes or who are in danger will not be able to shelter side by side in evacuation centres or hug volunteers for comfort.

“We’ve all visited recovery centres in the past, it’s often a lot of people in a confined space — we need to find new ways of doing that,” National Bushfire Recovery Agency coordinator Andrew Colvin said.

“My colleagues in the response and recovery agencies around the country are adjusting their plans at the moment to make sure we can facilitate recovery in the COVID-safe environment.

“We don’t know what disasters may befall the country in the coming season, but we know we have to prepare for every scenario.”

A deadly pandemic and the killer threat of bushfires means firefighters will be battling on multiple fronts.

NSW Rural Fire Service spokesman James Morris said, if required, evacuation centres would continue to operate this season where possible — albeit differently.

“We may not see any large-scale fires into the New Year, where we may see a significant ease in these restrictions, so we are continuing to work with the Government and agencies like Resilience NSW to monitor and make sure if we need to open evacuation centres and the like, they’re done in that COVID-safe environment.

“And we continue to do what we can to reduce the mass gatherings that occur in these style of evacuations.”

Dorrigo evacuation centre
People will be temperature checked before being allowed to enter evacuation centres, if needed, this bushfire season.(Supplied: Kymbalee Tarran)

Mr Morris said in the event of a bushfire emergency, the location of any evacuation centres would depend on whether they were within a coronavirus hotspot, and affected residents would be encouraged to register at the centre before moving on to a hotel or relative’s home to try to limit the number of people inside.

There would also be temperature testing at the door, and people’s names and numbers would be recorded.

Changes have already been made to protect firefighters, and they will continue in the event of another disastrous bushfire season.

There are currently limits on the number of people allowed inside fire trucks to ensure emergency personnel are physically distancing.

Vehicles will also be decontaminated after each use.

“We’ll continue to follow restrictions as much as need be, firefighters are still undertaking training, they’re still attending callout, so there’s no issue in regards to that protection that we maintain with our communities,” Mr Morris said.

RFS supports two-year jail sentence for South Coast man who lit Deua River Valley bushfire

About Regional reports that the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has supported the two-year prison sentence handed down to a NSW South Coast man who lit a fire on Boxing Day 2019 that burnt thousands of hectares.

Christopher Paul McMahon was sentenced on Friday, 11 September, for an illegal hazard reduction in Deua River Valley which spread and joined the Clyde Mountain bushfire, adding pressure to already busy RFS volunteers.

“[When the Deua River Valley fire started] we were already dealing with the Currowan fire, which had encroached on the top end of the Eurobodalla,” said Far South Coast Rural Fire Service district officer Martin Webster.

“[The Currowan fire] was showing no signs of pulling up. It was marching south despite our best efforts so we were already committed to that fire. Then [the Deua River Valley] was probably the second fire we were dealing with.”

Mr Webster said the RFS is “comfortable” with Moruya Local Court’s decision to sentence Mr McMahon to two years in prison, and the message it sends to the community and arsonists.

“[Arson/negligent use of fire] is something we take very seriously and pursue very actively,” said Mr Webster.

The bushfire danger period has now begun on the NSW Far South Coast and Mr Webster had a simple but strong message for anyone who irresponsibly starts fires.

“The bottom line is, don’t do it,” he said. “We work very closely with the police to keep a close eye on areas where there have been suspicious fires. There are very stiff penalties involved, as well, especially for deliberately lighting fires. The maximum penalty can be up to 21 years in prison.”

“Anyone wishing to light a fire during the bushfire danger period must obtain a permit from their local fire brigade. Call the Far South Coast Fire Control Centre on 02 6494 7400 for information on how to get in touch with your local fire brigade.

“Fire permits are required and any breach of permit conditions are also taken very seriously. Fines can apply if people breach the conditions on their permits so I’d strongly recommend anyone who has a permit reads it carefully.”

The RFS has begun hazard reduction on the NSW Far South Coast, however Mr Webster said the conditions for fires to start and spread aren’t as bad this year as they were last year.

“This time last year, our drought factor was 9.5/10,” he said. “At the moment, we’re sitting on about seven, but we’ve got full dams, the soil moisture profile is much better than it was this time last year, and we have a lot less area to burn.

“However, we do still have places where we could have quite nasty fires so people need to be vigilant and make sure they have a bushfire survival plan. Last year would have given people on the Far South Coast a really good rehearsal of their bushfire survival plan so it’s worth revisiting and seeing what can be done better this year.”

Back burning has been carried out around Pambula and Pambula Beach and will take place in Eden this weekend, said Mr Webster.

“We’ve been looking at areas that still carry risk and mitigating that risk,” he said. “That’s not to say we can eliminate risk, but we’re doing our best to reduce it.”

Local RFS Volunteer Numbers Through The Roof On The Coffs Coast

News of the Area reported that SEVEN times the average number of volunteers have put their hand up to be part of the local Rural Fire Service this year.

In what has become one of the uplifting consequences of the catastrophic 2019 bushfires, the local Rural Fire Service has been inundated with people putting their hand up to become members.

On average, the local RFS receives about 15 or 20 new volunteers annually.

This year so far, they’ve had 139.

Rural Fire Service Mid North Coast manager, Superintendent Sean McArdle said it’s not surprising coming off the back of the intense fire season of 2019.

“I’ve been with the service for 30 years and after major fire seasons we do expect an influx of volunteers – and it’s always excellent to see,” Supt. McArdle said.

Though training has been more difficult this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Supt. McArdle said they’ve been working hard to ensure all new members get their Basic Firefighter training as soon as possible.

“This really relieves the burden on the volunteers that worked so hard last year – and it’s always good to get new members with fresh ideas and enthusiasm.

“And it means there are more people with Basic Firefighter training in the community, who then have that knowledge to share with friends, neighbours and family.”

He said the 2020 bushfire season looks to be more like a “normal” fire season with a wetter season predicted.

“My members went through such a unique fire season last year; they now have skills they wouldn’t have gained in 20 years in the service.

“There had been a kind of apathy in our community towards large scale bushfires – only because it had been over 20 years since we had major fires.

“What last season has done is given a heightened awareness and opportunity for the community to have learned and make sure they have a Bushfire Survival Plan, tidy up their properties and to be prepared.”

He urged people wanting to light fires to contact their local brigade to obtain a permit.

“They’re free and you get expert advice from a brigade officer.”

RFS crews successfully stage Huskisson hazard reduction burn

The South Coast Register reported that Rural Fire Service crews from Huskisson, St Georges Basin Brigade, Basin View and Cross Roads brigades successfully completed a hazard reduction burn at Berry Street Huskisson on Tuesday, September 8.

The five hectare burn provides an additional bushfire fuel reduced buffer to more than 100 properties.

The area adjoining the National Park at Moona Creek will have some heavier fuels smouldering and potentially burning within the identified containment lines for some days yet, even with the recent light drizzle.

Walkers and bike riders should avoid the area for a few days to allow the area to settle and you should not walk through the burnt areas as the ground may still be hot and fire affected trees/ branches can fall without warning.

Caravan destroyed by fire at Carcoar Dam

The Blayney Chronicle reported that a retired couple travelling through NSW have had their holiday plans ruined after a fire destroyed their caravan at the popular Carcoar Dam recreation area.

Canobolas Zone RFS received a call at 9.45 this morning and a unit from the Carcoar brigade and a group officer attended the fire.

Initial calls mentioned a gas bottle explosion as the cause of the fire, however investigations have indicated that the initial cause was a battery charger that had over-heated.

The gas cylinder exploded during the height of the fire.

Jobs boost for Albury as NSW Rural Fire Service sets up regional command office in the city

 Getting a briefing: NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott listens to Rural Fire Service chiefs inside the vehicle parking area of the new regional command premises in Albury.

RFS members receive National Medals

Clarence Valley News reported that two Clarence Valley RFS members have received National Medals for their service to the community.

Group Captains John Page and Blair Spalding received their medals from NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Service David Elliott, during the official hand over of four new RFS tankers, at the Clarence Valley RFS headquarters at Ulmarra last Wednesday.

The keys for the new tankers were handed over to brigade members from each of the following clubs: Iluka, Copmanhurst, Dilkoon and Ulmarra who were the recipients of the new vehicles.

Also present at the hand over were NSW RFS Senior Assistant Commissioner Bruce McDonald, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis, CVC Mayor Jim Simmons and CVC General Manager Ashley Lindsay.

NSW Minister for Police and Emergency Service David Elliott said that the four new trucks worth around $750,000, will be well used by these local brigades.

“They had an extremely busy summer last year and there is no doubt in my mind that with this capability, they will be able to do their job better, quicker and safer,” Mr Elliott said.

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