01 Jun Learning to rescue in a bushfire
As 2019 drew into its last quarter the MNC branch of WIRES started to face a totally unexpected threat, not just to its wildlife but possibly to our members. Our footprint is primarily rainforest and so while we have had small and medium fires in the past, no-one was pre-prepared for the conflagration of the Liberation Trail and Anderson’s Creek fires that covered a huge section of our branch’s footprint. As the fires bore down many members had to evacuate their homes and one member evacuating her Macropods even as her family stay and fought to save their home.
Members were constantly asking if we could go in and look for injured animals. Sadly this was not possible, neither the RFS or NPWS could allow untrained personnel near the fire-lines, nor into the danger areas of burnt out forest. What we needed was a team of Bushfire trained rescuers with the correct PPE and other safety equipment that could work with our agencies to get into these areas and conduct search and rescuer for animals and to assess water and food replenishment needs in the pockets of less damaged forest.
In December we were able to have ten members of our branch trained in Basic Wildfire Awareness to AFQ1 level and we received a grant allowing us to purchase safety equipment, portable cages as well as baskets, maps, radios and GPS’s. The team was formed, and a leader chosen. However, most fire grounds were still out of bounds for all but RFS and NPWS and so Nigel our team leader began reaching out to the local RFS, NPWS and DPI to see if we could search or assess for food and water needs. Most areas were considered too dangerous as they had only been assessed from the air. As tracks and trails began to be cleared and access gained COVID restrictions started to come into force and it quickly became apparent that this year would be more of a preparation/training period, but as we move toward the 2020 fire season we have a trained team full equipped and raring to go. We have built the connections with our local agencies enabling us to get first access as appropriate and we are in a position to help members evacuate their care animals and conduct after fire searches and assistance as needed.