Do you remember Christmas 2019? I do. The black summer bushfires over 2019-2020 bushfire season saw 24 million hectares of land burnt. In addition, 3000 homes destroyed and three billion animals killed or displaced across Australia. BlazeAid knows the devastation a bushfire can cause.
Matt and I were staying with my dad while a 500,000-hectare bushfire raged towards us. The bushfire heading towards my hometown was the Currowan fire. It had already wiped out towns on its journey towards us. Starting from a lightning strike, the fire burnt for 74 days, destroyed 312 homes and damaged a further 173.
By the time New Years Eve came around, we were cut off from the rest of the world. No roads out and no power. Both of the photos below were taken by my old Samsung in the middle of the day. The firefighters were able to get ahead of the fire and burn a gap between the larger fire and homes, stopping it from hitting the small town of Basin View.
Once we were in the clear (the 9th of January 2020) Matt and I were keen to help with bush fire relief where ever we could. We cancelled the rest of our travel. We reached out to multiple bushfire relief initiatives, but everywhere was chock-full of great people who had volunteered before us. Eventually we got a call back from BlazeAid.
Who are BlazeAid?
BlazeAid are a volunteer-based organisation that works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods. Their primary objective is rebuilding boundary fences, helping to keep remaining livestock on their property. It seems very simple, but when your whole world is disrupted, it’s nice to know that your remaining livelihood is secure.
Where did we volunteer?
BlazeAid had so many locations across the impacted region, so we just naturally chose the one closest to us after Christmas at my family home. Braidwood is a small town on the Southern Tablelands of New South Wales. Braidwood was closed off for seven weeks because of the fires. Matt and I snuck in via some back streets that were still open towards the start, but quickly closed off after we were through.
What do BlazeAid volunteers do?
The majority of BlazeAid volunteers arrive with no knowledge on how to build a fence, and leave with a wealth of experience! Volunteers arrived of all ages, and with different levels of experience. We even had different nationalities; backpackers who want to give back. BlazeAid organised freespecialty training like chainsaw skills for those who were interested, and provided all the tools to get the job done.
Who do BlazeAid help?
The majority of people BlazeAid help are rural farmers. People who use fences to keep in cattle, horses and other farm animals. Often, during the devestation of natural disasters like fires and floods, farm animals don’t survive. When they do, there’s no fences left to keep them at home. BlazeAid rebuilds the boundary fences so farmers can focus on rebuilding their lives.
How do you get involved?
BlazeAid often set up camps once its safe to do so after a natural disaster. When they’ve set up, they open up volunteer applications for each individual camp. You don’t need to know anything about fencing, but of course, it helps. A BlazeAid camp is exactly what it sounds like… you’ll need a tent or a motorhome during your stay. They also favour those who can put in more time – it’s hard to be constantly upskilling people, so if they can hold onto skilled volunteers, they will.
If you’re interested, you can read about each camp and register on the BlazeAid website… and yes, some camps allow you to bring your dog!