Out of the ashes of Black Saturday 2009 came an urgent need for fences to be rebuilt and communities restored.
Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, were among those whose fences were burnt. Needing to quickly secure their 1,500 sheep, they sought assistance from family, friends and local volunteers to help rebuild their fences.
Within a week, the fences were completed – a task that would have taken them months to do on their own. Grateful for the assistance they received, Rhonda and Kevin decided to try to help a few others with their fencing.
Thus, BlazeAid was born.
Since the devastation of the Black Saturday bushfires on 8th February 2009, thousands of long- and short-term BlazeAid volunteers have come to help rebuild fences for the bush fire survivors. Our volunteers have come from all parts of Australia, as well as New Zealand, Switzerland, England, Afghanistan, Canada, Germany, Austria, America and France.
Working tirelessly but cheerfully alongside the bushfire survivors, we have rebuilt over 400 km of fences in areas including Kilmore East, Kinglake, Kinglake West, Pheasant Creek, St Andrews, Strathewen, Flowerdale, Wandong, Mt Disappointment, Glenburn, Murrundindi and Clonbinane. In addition, we’ve helped to remove hundreds of kilometres of damaged fencing, removed fallen trees from fence-lines, helped with gardening projects, and even built the odd chook shed or two.
By lending a hand in true Aussie style, BlazeAid volunteers not only built fences, but helped to restore the spirits of fire survivors who lost family and friends, pets, stock, homes and property to the inferno. The survivors we assisted are extremely grateful for the work, support and friendship of BlazeAid’s volunteers.
BlazeAid’s work over these many months could not have been achieved without the generosity of the many donors, sponsors, volunteer groups, individuals and businesses who have assisted us with tools and equipment, food, accommodation and billeting, transport and hands-on support in the fire zones. We are extremely grateful for their wonderful support and thank them most sincerely.
After the floods of 2011 and Cyclone Yasi …
BlazeAid completed flood and cyclone reconstruction work in Victoria, NSW, Qld and WA. Our volunteers came from far and wide and worked for many months to restore the fences and the properties of 577 rural families.
Our volunteers worked in flood affected areas in Victoria at Bridgewater, (near Bendigo,) and at Charlton. In northern NSW BlazeAid volunteers were at Tenterfield and in southern Queensland at Toowoomba, Stanthorpe, Warwick, Chinchilla, Texas and Mt Tyson.
Following the devastation of cyclone Yasi in northern Queensland our teams were at Tully, Murgon and Ficks Crossing.
Finally, we have also had teams working in the Carnarvon Junction area of WA.
Much was achieved after the disasters struck. We had 2,224 volunteers working from the basecamps. The teams of BlazeAid volunteers worked a total of 13,548 days and cleaned up 914 kilometres of fencing and rebuilt 718 km. In the Tully area much work was done clearing fallen timber and trees in paddocks. Many other smaller jobs were tackled which relied on the initiative and skills of the volunteers.
The 2012 Floods
Once again, BlazeAid volunteers worked with flood-affected families – this time at Bribbarree, Narrandera, Ungarie and Wagga Wagga in NSW and Dunkeld, Queensland.
Over 866 km of fencing was removed or cleared of debris, with a further 679 km of fencing rebuilt. This was achieved by 811 volunteers across the five basecamps. Collectively, they completed 7,907 days of work on 176 rural properties. Many volunteers had previously been to a BlazeAid basecamp, while others were new volunteers.
“We asked you to come help us rebuild our fences but you guys have done way more than that, you have helped us rebuild our broken community. For that we are forever grateful to you and all the amazing volunteers.”
Maree Perkins, Monto, Qld, 2013 Floods.
In 2013 bushfires and floods devastated the eastern states of Australia. In Tasmania, Victoria and NSW, our volunteers worked alongside bushfire-affected families from 6 basecamps (Hamilton and Sorrell, Tas, Maffra/Heyfield, Vic, Bookham, Coonabarabran and Nimmitabel, NSW). We had a further 8 basecamps in Queensland, where we worked with rural families who were affected by major flooding – Mundubbera, Monto, Murgon, Biggenden, Gin Gin, Dululu, Mulgowie/Laidley and Junction View.
A total of 3,500 volunteers helped 810 rural families in 2013, doing over 29,600 days of work. They cleared approx. 1,350 km of damaged fencing and rebuilt 1,460 km.
Bushfires in 2014 saw basecamps established in Victoria at Laharum, Wandong and Clarkefield and at Palmer/Angaston and Wirrabara, South Australia. Over 830 km of fencing was cleared and approx 540 km of fencing was rebuilt.
For the first year, we provided Drought Relief Assistance. Volunteers in the Richmond and Julia Creek areas of Qld, worked on a variety of jobs including helping to clean and paint homes and shearers quarters, fixing machinery, looking after children and helping with home-schooling, fencing, clearing yards, etc.
In 2014, almost 1,400 volunteers helped 513 rural families, contributing 14,670 days of work to the local communities.
The impacts of natural disasters go on for many weeks or months, and sometimes years, after the event. It’s so important to let families know that they’re not forgotten and not alone. Working out on the fence line with a team of friendly volunteers not only gets the work done more quickly, it helps restore the spirits of our rural Aussies who are facing tough times.
We give heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported BlazeAid – our mighty Volunteers, our wonderful, tireless Camp Coordinators, the countless individuals and local groups who donate to BlazeAid, or provide discounts, cater for our volunteers, help with transport of trailers, provide us with somewhere to establish a basecamp, organise fundraising events … the list goes on.
You give so generously to help us bring relief to disaster-affected communities. Thank you.
Not just helping rebuild fences, but helping rebuild lives.
We are always seeking feedback about all matters to do with BlazeAid. We have learnt much by the feedback you have provided. If you wish to provide any feedback, good or bad please don’t hesitate to make comments or ask questions. Open lines of communication have been one of the reasons for our success. Our volunteers are the most important part of the organization. If we care for them and each other we will continue to have success.
You may like to send your BlazeAid stories to me so we can gain a broader overview of the operation.