WHILE the immediate threat of further devastation has largely subsided on Kangaroo Island, Country Fire Service volunteers from the Mount Gambier and Kingsley groups boarded a chartered plane to the fire-ravaged community yesterday afternoon to continue recovery efforts.
It was the 16th deployment of volunteers from the two groups – which cover the Mount Gambier district and the state’s most southern communities – so far this 2019/20 fire danger season.
More than 150 CFS volunteers across the broader Region 5 district, which spans the Limestone Coast, are estimated to have taken part in deployments outside of their usual jurisdiction over the past three months, including stints in New South Wales, Victoria and the Adelaide Hills.
In a show of appreciation to all those from the Limestone Coast who have responded to the needs of fire-affected communities, The Border Watch will publish a special feature on February 6 acknowledging these selfless acts.
The Heroes In Our Hearts feature will be a series of small messages to pay tribute to the people and organisations which have stood up in the nation’s time of need, with all residents invited to share their appreciation.
Mount Gambier CFS group operations captain Bob Davis said all of the state’s volunteers deserved recognition for their efforts, not just the CFS.
“The CFS is one of probably 100 or more organisations which volunteers its time,” Mr Davis said.
“Without the state’s volunteers, it would not be able to operate and it relies on volunteers in all walks on life.
“If you look at just the Mount Gambier and Kingsley CFS groups alone, our volunteers would have accumulated around 18,000 hours worth of work (over the deployments), it is a fair effort on their behalf.”
With each deployment lasting at least four days, Mr Davis said the amount of volunteers stationed outside the region was unprecedented.
“These fires will not be under control until we receive heavy rain,” he said.
“What we have done is only a small drop in the ocean compared to the rural fire fighting volunteers in New South Wales … some of those fire fighters have been out for 60 to 70 days straight.”
Region 5 operations planning officer Jason Druwitt said volunteers balance their organisation service often with a job and family.
“They often drop everything to help people during these devastating times of need,” he said.
“It is just phenomenal and if it was not for these people, the assistance provided to the community would not happen.
“Volunteers are the backbone of our community.”
Mr Druwitt believes this fire season across the country would be noted in history as one of Australia’s worst.
“Not only through the horrific loss of life, but because the devastating things we have seen across the landscape of South Australia,” he said.