After a dramatic and potentially devastating start to the NSW Bushfire season, stories of hope are starting to emerge from the ashes.
Hope 103.2’s Aaron and Erin talked to firefighter Tim Hall from NSW Fire and Rescue after what has been a difficult and exhausting week.
“I must confess the fatigue is starting to kick in,” Tim said. “If you’re on the fireground, there’s an old motto which is: ‘Get as much rest as you can, whenever you can, wherever you can, because you never know when you’re going to be flat out.’
“Thank heavens for the resources that have come in from other states,” Tim said, referring to the fact that Sydney fire fighters have been aided by Melbourne crews, Queensland Fire and Rescue and additional RFS resources from Victoria, SA, ACT and Queensland.
“I was involved in the 94 bushfires around Sydney and this is some of the worst I’ve seen in my career. It’s just travelling at such speeds because everything is so dry. That’s why it’s just so important that people make an early decision to leave or if they’re going to defend their home to be really well prepared.”
Long-term Blue Mountains residents are normally well prepared for the summer fire season, but these fires have come much earlier than usual, impacting many of the regions HSC students.
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Natalie Maddock is a high school teacher at Wycliffe Christian School in the lower Blue Mountains. Her HSC students have been relocated to other high schools to sit their exams, adding another layer of anxiety for the students. “The local high schools have been working together to find the safest place for local kids to sit their exams uninterrupted,” Mrs Maddock said.
Their school community has been deeply affected by the fires. “Quite a few families have lost everything and there’s reports still coming in of homes that have been damaged.”
Mrs Maddock says the most touching moment for her was seeing one of her students offering to give away her One Direction concert tickets to a family who had lost everything. The Year 10 students discussed on facebook who would be the most worthy recipients of the gift and decided on a family with two teenage girls.
“I was really lost for words. Being a high school teacher you realise what high currency One Direction tickets actually are. While it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it certainly was an amazingly generous offer,” Mrs Maddock said.
The student, Jamie, explained her motivation to Hope Mornings: “I just thought it would bring them a little bit more happiness than it would me right now.”
The 16-year-old said she has grown up a lot through the experience of the bushfires. “It’s been pretty stressful and scary cause a lot of the time you don’t know if your friends are okay,” Jamie said, but it has also made her appreciate how the community comes together in times of crisis. “It’s just a beautiful place with a lot of beautiful people really.”
Her teacher agrees: “It’s a fantastic community in the Blue Mountains and while this isn’t a new experience, it’s a new scale with so many houses that have been lost in such a small community. In the 2001 bushfires there were seven homes lost in the street that I live in and all of those people rebuilt their homes and live there to this day.”
Youthworker, Joel Hollier, from Springwood Baptist Church was one of the unfortunate ones who recently lost his house in fires.
“It has been quite a shock for everyone up here. I think the whole community is just reeling with what’s happened,” Joel said.
“Our house is gone, completely. It was quite sobering to rock up there and see that so much of where we’ve grown up is just flattened. The walls that are left are tilting and very precarious. There may be a few bits and pieces left there, but it’s not worth the risk of trying to get in.”
Joel and his family were able to save very little, other than a few flash drives, some photo negatives and one or two home DVDs that survived the fire. “It all happened so quickly,” Joel explained.
Joel says the things he will miss most are the photos of his childhood that were on the walls, as well as momentos of overseas travels and family holidays.
“In some ways it’s just stuff, but on the other side there are so many memories attached to them. That’s the upsetting part, because we know that those memories will fade.” However, Joel also stressed his faith is in Jesus, who has provided him with so much. He has also seen God’s love reflected in the care of those around him.
“The community response has been overwhelming. It has been absolutely amazing to see the community step up and show great love and care. It’s a generosity that I’ve never seen before. It’s been so humbling for us to recognise that we are in a position of need, which we don’t very often experience. To accept people’s love is challenging.”
Audio – Blue Mountains resident Joel Hollier talks about losing his home
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Audio - Collett Smart from Family Smart dicusses how to talk to children about the bushfires
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