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The Australian bushfires – Meet our firefighting heroes

  • February 20, 2020
  • 3 min read

Recent torrential rains may have dampened many of Australia’s bushfires, but not before the efforts of some of our Aussie people and farmers volunteered with their local emergency services organisations to help. Meet a few of them below.

Jai Manning – Quality Co-ordinator, Spreyton – Tasmania

Jai has volunteered with the Tasmanian Fire Service for 13 years and was deployed alongside a group from New Zealand to fight a 14km long and 6km wide fire-front in Yeppoon, Queensland.

“We worked 14-hour shifts for four days, helping with back-burning and to protect heavy machinery and the township – and to give the local crews a much-needed rest.

“The community was really grateful to see resources come from Tasmania and New Zealand, which was evident on the first day when a local paid for dozen coffees as we ordered them.

“Many approached us to say thank you, with local businesses providing bedding, food and supplies, which was incredibly humbling when they had already lost so much.

“It’s great that Fonterra supports us by providing extra leave to volunteer, and my manager is always ready to help in case I get called up again,” says Jai.

Darren McDonald – Process Controller, Darnum – Victoria

Darren has volunteered with the Darnum & Ellinbank Fire Brigade for 13 years and was flown in to work around Taree in New South Wales.

“We were tasked with a lot of different roles that changed quickly depending on conditions, including protecting property, strengthening containment lines, and providing community support.

Darren says the community spirit is something he’ll never forget.

“The kindness of the people amazed me. We were very well looked after with all the food, drinks and toiletries you could ask for. So many goods were donated by people and businesses, which was unbelievable.

“Firefighters from New Zealand, the US, and Canada were involved, and it was great to meet and talk to everyone who came to help.

“The best thing was seeing the look of relief on the locals’ faces when five fire trucks rolled up to help them out. It made it all worthwhile and is the reason why I continue to volunteer,” says Darren.

Babs Smith – Cheese plant operator, Stanhope – Victoria

Babs has volunteered in a Search and Rescue unit for over 16 years and has a lot of experience with bushfires.

Back in 2009 she headed up a response team to assist with the Black Saturday fires in Victoria, where she donated machinery to use for fire breaks and land clearing, and also as a first responder involved in rescuing and caring for survivors.

This time around, Babs led a team of 11 using excavators and bobcats to create firebreaks, fell trees and clear houses damaged in Corryong in Victoria's north-east – home to a community of dairy farms.

Babs says that part of her role was to check properties for those reported missing in the fires, which was the most harrowing part of her work.

“I got involved in search and rescue at a young age when my sister was involved a tragic accident, which spurred me on to help with land and river rescues and searches.

“It can be a rewarding job sometimes, we always band together to make sure everyone is coping, and the sense of community is really strong,” says Babs.