Volunteer firefighters already give so much to keep their communities safe and three Picton Rural Fire Brigade members have gone above and beyond to help out farmers.
Andrew Hain and Jamie Smith went to Cassilis on the Central West on March 12 and 13 to help locals get back on their feet after a bushfire tore through the area in February.
Mr Hain, Mr Smith and Mark Davis assisted in BlazeAid, a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and residents in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods hit.
Working with farmers, the volunteers help rebuild fences or structure that have been damaged or destroyed.
“We were able to see first hand how hard the recovery effort is for farmers,” Mr Hain said.
“If they don’t have a boundary fence then their stock ends up on the road so we wanted to help out.”
Southern Highlands Strike Team including Mr Hain, Mr Smith and Mr Davis, went to Cassilis in February to help put out any spot fires after the initial blaze swept through the area.
“The town escaped the fire but driving through the farming area was confronting because everything was burnt and the heat would have be very intense,” Mr Hain said.
“You never expect to have everything wiped out in one hit.
“One farmer lost three sheds and he was only able to save a few bigger tools.
“He pretty much lost all his tools, not all of which were insured, costing him thousands of dollars.
“It is hard to get back to farming after losing that much.”
The Sir Ivan Fire destroyed 55,000 hectares of land, 35 homes, 131 outbuildings, an estimated 5500 kilometres of fencing and about 3000 head of stock.
BlazeAid volunteers help out for weeks or months after the disaster to help the community rebuild.
The Picton firefighters were in Cassilis for a weekend to repair what they could and tried to lift the spirits of the affected farmers.
“We help farmers get on with business and start operating again so we focus on fixing their fences so they can get more stock,” Mr Hain said.
“We wanted to be useful and to chip in the little bit we could.”
Mr Hain said the organisation paired experienced fencers with volunteers.
He said Mr Smith and Mr Davis as well as other members of the brigade would like to return to Cassilis to continue to help the community.
“We are all keen to get back up there when time permits,” he said.
Mr Hain encouraged residents to volunteer their time to the effort or support the initiative financially.
“A big bushfire is always in the news but then media coverage drops off and the repair works continue,” he said.
“I encourage people to look at the BlazeAid website and to donate what they can to help the effort.”