INDIVIDUALS, organisations and businesses from throughout the Corner Inlet district are rallying to aid communities affected by the bushfires that are currently burning in East Gippsland.
Among the many responses so far are fundraising, donations of hay and feed for livestock and pets, and offers of accommodation for people and their animals.
The Prom Community Opp Shop at 18 Main Street in Foster and the Garage Sale Outlet at 78 Main Street held a fundraising day on Friday January 3, 2020, which saw a total of $2803.15 collected for bushfire assistance.
Run jointly by Foster charity Prom Aged Services Fund Raising Inc. (PASRI), the two shops gave their day’s takings of $1776.40 along with a further $1026.75 in donations received from the community and placed in collection tins in each shop.
PASRI honorary treasurer Lloyd McKenzie said, “the activity was extremely well supported by the public”, and that more money had been contributed since then.
“We will be holding a meeting to decide which is the best way to distribute these funds,” he said.
“We want to help the community affected by the fires directly on the ground.”
Cellarbrations in Foster donated all of the business’s trading profits made on Sunday January 5, 2020 along with owner Dale McLauchlan’s wages for the day to the CFA Bushfire Disaster Appeal.
“Thanks to the people of Foster and those visiting the town we donated $1300 to the CFA,” Mr McLauchlan said.
“So many people came into the shop on Sunday saying that they’d either seen our Facebook post about the appeal or had read the blackboard out the front,” he said.
“Some were telling us they couldn’t pass the sign outside the shop without coming in and buying something, and as a result we had a really solid Sunday, much more so than usual.”
HAY, SILAGE, STOCKFEED DRIVES
The Toora Community Action Team (TCAT), together with Peter Stoitse Transport of Welshpool, Storr Transport of Toora, and Phelan and Henderson and Co Livestock Agency of Yarram, organised a hay drive to East Gippsland.
Both the Toora and Welshpool football grounds became collection points for smaller numbers of round and square bales of hay and silage delivered by district farmers, as well as the central depots for larger loads picked up from on-farm.
TCAT organisers Anna Hopkins and Louisa Vale said through the TCAT Facebook page that all of the feed donations were being co-ordinated with larger groups in Bairnsdale for distribution by air and sea.
“We guarantee that your donation will end up where it’s really needed,” they said.
TCAT also co-ordinated with Murray Goulburn Trading Pty Ltd’s South Gippsland branches to assemble donations of feed for livestock such as horses, goats, alpacas and poultry, and for working dogs and domestic pets.
Murray Goulburn’s Foster manager Dean Fraser said nine pallets worth of feed, valued at about $6500, had been contributed at the Lower Toora Road store since the collection began on Friday afternoon January 3, 2020.
“There’s another four pallets at our Dumbalk store, and eight or nine more at Yarram Murray Goulburn, too,” he said.
Private property owners and community groups alike are offering places to people who have lost their houses to the East Gippsland fires.
Some with vacant rooms in their homes are preparing to help those in need of a temporary place to stay in the future.
The members of the 1st Fish Creek Scout Group have already made their hall and grounds in Falls Road available as accommodation and for camping, along with the use of their kitchen and bathroom facilities.
The Scout Group is also welcoming pets as well as their owners.
CFA SG GROUP CONTINUES
The Country Fire Authority’s South Gippsland Group of brigades is continuing to send local strike teams and crews to the fire areas, as it has since mid-November 2019 when the fires in south-eastern New South Wales first ignited.
SG Group officer Walter Aich said many CFA brigade members had travelled to and from East Gippsland during the past week, with some teams still on active duty and more teams being organised.
“One group consisting of members from Foster, Toora, Fish Creek, Meeniyan and Pound Creek travelled by bus to the Bairnsdale incident control area where they caught up with trucks already there, including the Fish Creek tanker,” he said.
“The Foster forward command vehicle and the Yanakie ultra-light, a smaller tanker, along with CFA crew from other Gippsland brigades such as Trida and Thorpdale were under Orbost incident control.
“There’s been a fairly constant stream of teams and crews going from this area to support the Rural Fire Service in NSW and the CFA in eastern Victoria for the past several weeks,” Mr Aich said.
“Our volunteer firefighters have had some very early starts as they are usually expected on the fireground by 10 am before spending the next two days there, with a changeover day at either end.
“I’m very proud of the people who are associated with the CFA brigades in the SG Group, including the firefighters themselves who give up two, three, four and more days at a time, over and over again, to help others,” he said.
“I’m also proud of our members’ families and employers who are supporting them.”
Foster CFA member Brian Mellor was part of the strike team manning the Fish Creek tanker that was blacking out and maintaining the fire line at Nowa Nowa near Orbost from about 3 am on Saturday January 4, 2020.
“After dawn we came across a slow speed car accident which had taken place in fog and smoke so thick you couldn’t see more than a metre in front of you, but fortunately no-one was injured,” he said.
“We stopped for lunch at about 9 am and then helped to undertake a check of ‘who in the Nowa Nowa community was where’ before the fire blew up again.”
Mr Mellor said he would be putting his hand up to go with more strike teams in the future as “this fire is going to burn for a long time yet.
“A lot of our younger CFA members have been attending the fires during the holiday period but soon many of them will have to go back to work and we older members will be on call.”