BLAZEAID TACKLES THE BUSHFIRE CRISIS

WORDS JULIETTE REMFREY, IMAGES VARIOUS

GUIDE BlazeAid – Part 1

after the flames have passed through

Here’s how you can help

The 2019/2020 fire season has touched a great many. Communities, families and individuals are exhausted from facing days, weeks and even months of fire threat lapping at their doorstep – staying to defend what’s left, or evacuating to safer ground and wondering what, if anything, they might return to. The unluckiest property owners have endured fires twice in a year on already drought-stricken land. While Australia is no stranger to extreme weather and widespread disaster, the scale of fire damage this season is almost unfathomable and the threat has not yet passed.

On the road, a number of RV tourers have been caught directly in the path of fire and forced to evacuate and even abandon their rigs. Those that haven’t been directly affected may know someone who has or frequented towns that have now been razed.

But disasters have a way of bringing out the best in people, and RV tourers truly embody the Aussie spirit of kindness and generosity (Read more here). In good times they boost the tourist dollars flowing through rural towns, and in bad times a growing number turn up to lend a helping hand. It turns out that RV tourers are well equipped for the task with time, suitable vehicles and mobile accommodation perfect for setting up and staying for extended periods. The Aussie spirit is so infectious that international tourists in RVs have also pitched in.

There are charitable organisations supporting post-fire recovery across many different areas of need. There may be a particular cause that tugs at your heartstrings. Perhaps it’s helping a friend or relative, or a community that you love to visit, or maybe it’s the satisfaction you’ll get from helping a total stranger or a wildlife rescue organisation. As BlazeAid puts it, recovery is a marathon not a sprint, and recovery work will continue throughout 2020 and beyond. Whether you can spare a day, a week, a month or longer, there are people that need help to get their life back together and it’s not too late to get involved.

This article is not intended to cover the full breadth of charitable activities you can become involved with. Instead, I’ll introduce you to the work of BlazeAid and explore how you can add a BlazeAid camp to your itinerary to help rural property owners.

Image credit: Christina Doherty

ABOUT BLAZEAID
BlazeAid was founded in 2009 by Kevin and Rhonda Butler, farmers from Kilmore East in Victoria who received generous assistance in rebuilding fences on their property to secure their sheep after the Black Saturday fires. More on the Butlers backstory can be read on the BlazeAid website.

As the Butlers’ own story highlights, fences are vitally important to rural farms as you can’t restock a paddock or plant a crop without secure fences, and thousands of kilometres of fencing across multiple properties needs to be removed and replaced after a big fire or flood goes through a community. This vital work helps many farmers that can’t afford the initial clean-up and fence installation and allows them to stay on their properties, which in turn helps rural communities and businesses to remain in the area. BlazeAid sets up basecamps in affected areas and invites volunteers in to help with cleaning up, removing damaged fences and installing new fences.

As I write this, the Victorian Government’s recently established Bushfire Recovery Victoria agency has recognised the important work that BlazeAid does and contributed $1 million from donations raised by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. BlazeAid will use this money to set up and run its basecamps, feed volunteers, purchase materials and engage local contractors.

Image credit: Christina Doherty

Image credit: Christina Doherty

Image credit: Robert Sharp

“Those that haven’t been directly affected may know someone who has or frequented towns that have now been razed”

for the outback
real caravans

WHAT A BLAZEAID BASECAMP CONTAINS
The BlazeAid basecamp is Ground Zero; giving organisers a place to coordinate activities from and allows volunteers to stay, socialise, rest and eat during their stint. The basecamp provides a place to park RVs or pitch a tent or swag, power, cooking facilities, dining and meeting areas, toilets and hot showers. In the past, people have generously donated caravans and tents to BlazeAid to accommodate those that don’t have their own as is often the case with overseas volunteers. The basecamp also acts as a secure storage facility for tooling and equipment. Often, basecamps will be set up at a local showground, sporting ground or other community facility.

Each camp costs around $5000 per week to run including catering for volunteers, plus additional costs for the spike in utilities for the duration of the basecamp’s stay. Camp Coordinators keep the camps running smoothly by ensuring proper accountability on purchases and donations, and deploying volunteers with appropriate tools to farms.

With the help of community groups and property owners BlazeAid caters meals for volunteers during their stay. BlazeAid tell me that its ethos is supporting community first by buying most of their groceries and general items from independent stores in town. When there’s a need for tools and fencing materials, they try to buy from the local Agricultural store. When that’s not an option, they go to the next closest town that has what they need. When it’s time to leave, BlazeAid leaves donated items in the community such as slow cookers, fryers and microwaves.

Image credit: Robert Sharp

Image credit: Josh Cheong

WHERE BLAZEAID BASECAMPS ARE SET UP
BlazeAid’s experience is that basecamps work best when set up as soon as possible after a disaster as that’s when there’s a spike in volunteer interest and when communities most need to feel reassurance that someone is coming to help.

BlazeAid doesn’t directly approach affected communities. It’s up to communities and the local government to approach BlazeAid with suitable facilities and enough individuals and families willing to work alongside volunteers for clearing and fencing work for two or more months in order to make setting up a basecamp viable. BlazeAid chats to the community to determine the suitability for a basecamp.

Affected property owners in areas where a basecamp is set up need to contact the Camp Coordinator directly to register for assistance, and if no basecamp is set up, follow the detailed guidance about getting a basecamp established in their area (Read more here).The preliminary clean-up by authorities takes time, so patience is needed. Once the roads and area are deemed safe BlazeAid is invited in to set up camp and the call is put out for volunteers. The full list of BlazeAid basecamps running can be viewed on the website.

Image credit: Trevor Ryan

GUIDE BlazeAid – Part 1

BLAZEAID TACKLES THE BUSHFIRE CRISIS

after the flames have passed through

WORDS JULIETTE REMFREY, IMAGES VARIOUS

Here’s how you can help

The 2019/2020 fire season has touched a great many. Communities, families and individuals are exhausted from facing days, weeks and even months of fire threat lapping at their doorstep – staying to defend what’s left, or evacuating to safer ground and wondering what, if anything, they might return to. The unluckiest property owners have endured fires twice in a year on already drought-stricken land. While Australia is no stranger to extreme weather and widespread disaster, the scale of fire damage this season is almost unfathomable and the threat has not yet passed.

On the road, a number of RV tourers have been caught directly in the path of fire and forced to evacuate and even abandon their rigs. Those that haven’t been directly affected may know someone who has or frequented towns that have now been razed.

But disasters have a way of bringing out the best in people, and RV tourers truly embody the Aussie spirit of kindness and generosity (Read more here). In good times they boost the tourist dollars flowing through rural towns, and in bad times a growing number turn up to lend a helping hand. It turns out that RV tourers are well equipped for the task with time, suitable vehicles and mobile accommodation perfect for setting up and staying for extended periods. The Aussie spirit is so infectious that international tourists in RVs have also pitched in.

There are charitable organisations supporting post-fire recovery across many different areas of need. There may be a particular cause that tugs at your heartstrings. Perhaps it’s helping a friend or relative, or a community that you love to visit, or maybe it’s the satisfaction you’ll get from helping a total stranger or a wildlife rescue organisation. As BlazeAid puts it, recovery is a marathon not a sprint, and recovery work will continue throughout 2020 and beyond. Whether you can spare a day, a week, a month or longer, there are people that need help to get their life back together and it’s not too late to get involved.

This article is not intended to cover the full breadth of charitable activities you can become involved with. Instead, I’ll introduce you to the work of BlazeAid and explore how you can add a BlazeAid camp to your itinerary to help rural property owners.

Image credit: Christina Doherty

ABOUT BLAZEAID
BlazeAid was founded in 2009 by Kevin and Rhonda Butler, farmers from Kilmore East in Victoria who received generous assistance in rebuilding fences on their property to secure their sheep after the Black Saturday fires. More on the Butlers backstory can be read on the BlazeAid website.

As the Butlers’ own story highlights, fences are vitally important to rural farms as you can’t restock a paddock or plant a crop without secure fences, and thousands of kilometres of fencing across multiple properties needs to be removed and replaced after a big fire or flood goes through a community. This vital work helps many farmers that can’t afford the initial clean-up and fence installation and allows them to stay on their properties, which in turn helps rural communities and businesses to remain in the area. BlazeAid sets up basecamps in affected areas and invites volunteers in to help with cleaning up, removing damaged fences and installing new fences.

As I write this, the Victorian Government’s recently established Bushfire Recovery Victoria agency has recognised the important work that BlazeAid does and contributed $1 million from donations raised by the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. BlazeAid will use this money to set up and run its basecamps, feed volunteers, purchase materials and engage local contractors.

Image credit: Christina Doherty

Image credit: Robert Sharp

Image credit: Christina Doherty

“Those that haven’t been directly affected may know someone who has or frequented towns that have now been razed”

for the outback
real caravans
WATCH THE 2019
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WHAT A BLAZEAID BASECAMP CONTAINS
The BlazeAid basecamp is Ground Zero; giving organisers a place to coordinate activities from and allows volunteers to stay, socialise, rest and eat during their stint. The basecamp provides a place to park RVs or pitch a tent or swag, power, cooking facilities, dining and meeting areas, toilets and hot showers. In the past, people have generously donated caravans and tents to BlazeAid to accommodate those that don’t have their own as is often the case with overseas volunteers. The basecamp also acts as a secure storage facility for tooling and equipment. Often, basecamps will be set up at a local showground, sporting ground or other community facility.

Each camp costs around $5000 per week to run including catering for volunteers, plus additional costs for the spike in utilities for the duration of the basecamp’s stay. Camp Coordinators keep the camps running smoothly by ensuring proper accountability on purchases and donations, and deploying volunteers with appropriate tools to farms.

With the help of community groups and property owners BlazeAid caters meals for volunteers during their stay. BlazeAid tell me that its ethos is supporting community first by buying most of their groceries and general items from independent stores in town. When there’s a need for tools and fencing materials, they try to buy from the local Agricultural store. When that’s not an option, they go to the next closest town that has what they need. When it’s time to leave, BlazeAid leaves donated items in the community such as slow cookers, fryers and microwaves.

Image credit: Josh Cheong

Image credit: Robert Sharp

WHERE BLAZEAID BASECAMPS ARE SET UP
BlazeAid’s experience is that basecamps work best when set up as soon as possible after a disaster as that’s when there’s a spike in volunteer interest and when communities most need to feel reassurance that someone is coming to help.

BlazeAid doesn’t directly approach affected communities. It’s up to communities and the local government to approach BlazeAid with suitable facilities and enough individuals and families willing to work alongside volunteers for clearing and fencing work for two or more months in order to make setting up a basecamp viable. BlazeAid chats to the community to determine the suitability for a basecamp.

Affected property owners in areas where a basecamp is set up need to contact the Camp Coordinator directly to register for assistance, and if no basecamp is set up, follow the detailed guidance about getting a basecamp established in their area (Read more here).The preliminary clean-up by authorities takes time, so patience is needed. Once the roads and area are deemed safe BlazeAid is invited in to set up camp and the call is put out for volunteers. The full list of BlazeAid basecamps running can be viewed on the website.

Image credit: Trevor Ryan

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