The weekend of May 19th & 20th was confirmed with Tungamah Group DGO Tony Burke and Gus Campbell who owns a several thousand acre farm in the town of Wilby.
We utilised the Clematis FCV and a trailer to take some necessary tools like wire cutters (bolt cutters), rake hoes and a pitch fork plus some comforts like bedding and food.
DGO Tony was tremendous in the coordination aspect organising everything that was necessary to have a successful outcome with us, the initial team. Gus offered us an old disused house that had hot water, toilet, shower and an open fire place. It was like the Taj Mahal compared to what we expected and to have a roof over our heads was a bonus.
We were welcomed on Saturday morning by Tony at 0830 who showed us where we were to start cleaning up perimeter fences which was only about 500 meters away.
What we came to were fences that were either covered in canola stubble that could be removed with some elbow grease, fences that were hit with the force of the flood that were literally horizontal and fences that needed the fencing wire removed and heaped.
Together the three of us looked at the situation and basically started from point “A” and just kept going down the road completing the task at hand. We all worked consistently, enjoying the situation and feeling accomplishment as we trekked along doing what we had to do.
One tactic that I will mention that we as firefighters have learnt in our minimum skills teachings was using the rake hoe in a “step up” procedure was the best method with a team to remove the stubble from the fences and nearby surrounds. This gave us the opportunity to burn the heaps surrounded by mineral earth and not get fatigued at the same time.
Yes we worked but yes we enjoyed each other’s company and to accomplish 1.3 kms with just three people, was totally satisfying. This distance though was like a drop in the ocean and these farmers who took the full brunt of the heavens opening up in a short period of time are very appreciative of any help that comes their way.
There are not enough hours in the day, not enough days in the year for these farmers to ever catch up and to work on a level playing field again. These farmers doing their day to day normal activities is such a long way down the track for them, playing catch up since the beginning of the year has become an over whelming situation for them.
The owner of the property Gus is also a CFA member and still turns out to assist his community when ever needed so realistically he is like you and me but with an enormous work load.
On Sunday Gus came up to us and thanked the three of us for not only the work completed but he sincerely thanked us for giving him the opportunity to have breakfast with his wife Sue and their 3 young children for the first time in 6 months.
To say this meant so much to us and this was enough incentive to tell us we had selected the right choice to volunteer our time to help out, and that we made a small contribution in assisting our fellow CFA comrades.
I am telling you this as Brian, Steve and I am proud of our accomplishment and we do hope that more volunteers will do similar to ease the burden that the heavens have bestowed upon our farmers.
Mark A Lane