February Bushfires highlight the Australian spirit
Over 11-18 February, the NSW Rural Fire Service, emergency services personnel and volunteers fought tirelessly as more than 600 bush fires raged across the State.
Many communities are hurting. Properties, livestock and livelihoods were destroyed in the catastrophic weather conditions. Our thoughts and prayers are with those affected during this incredibly difficult time.
There is no doubt that the local response has been second to none. All community members have banded together, not only to fight the fires, but to accelerate the recovery process. People in the bush know the land on which they live and work, and they are the true heroes of this horrible event.
Throughout the crisis the RFS team, led by Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, did an outstanding job and I’d like to reiterate my thanks to the many fire fighters and volunteers for their courage and commitment. Without them, and our local RFS teams, the outcome would have been much worse.
Since taking on the Emergency Services portfolio, I continue to be thoroughly impressed with the professionalism and composure of the individuals I’ve come into contact with from all of the agencies.
I’m pleased to report that the fire fighters who were hospitalised as a result of their injuries are recovering well.
The most severely affected areas were within the Warrumbungle, Narrabri, Kempsey, Port Macquarie-Hastings, Mid-Western Regional, Mid Coast, Upper Hunter and Queanbeyan-Palerang LGAs. Those affected by the fires will be doing it incredibly tough over the next few weeks and months. The Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan and I have triggered natural disaster assistance for those who have lost so much at the hands of Mother Nature.
Support is available to individuals, small businesses, primary producers and local councils. Please contact the Disaster Welfare Assistance Line on 1800 018 444 for more information.
A recovery centre is now operating in Coolah and agencies are holding meetings to listen to community concerns and how to best to manage the needs of individuals and families.
Following assessments of the affected areas, it has been determined that 56 homes have been lost and 26 homes damaged as a result of these fires. It is also estimated that our emergency services managed to save more than 80 other homes. The Department of Primary Industries has teams deployed who are continuing to assess stock loss. It is currently believed that over 3,400 head of stock and some 5,700 kilometres of fencing have been destroyed.
At this point, the emergency services agencies have indicated that donations of food items are not required; however those wishing to donate hay and other fodder following the Sir Ivan fire can arrange to do so by calling 6841 6525. Physical donations are not currently being accepted for the Queanbeyan fire; however the Mayor has established an appeal. To donate through this appeal, please visit http://www.qcc.nsw.gov.au/Announcements/Carwoola-Bushfire-Appeal.
During my 22 years as a policeman, I established strong working relationships with our emergency services, and it has been a privilege to work alongside these agencies again as Emergency Services Minister, albeit in very difficult circumstances. Their dedication to the people of our state cannot be understated.
The Australian spirit never ceases to amaze me. On the ground, there are volunteers who have travelled from across the state, and individuals who have lost everything are still helping others. This is a testament to the resilience of our communities in regional NSW.
Image Caption: Member for Dubbo, Troy Grant, meeting and thanking volunteers at Coolah