BlazeAid and the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council supported the Pappinbarra community coming together to help them recover from the devastating bushfires late last year.
BlazeAid is a volunteer based organisation helping families to rebuild their fences that have been damaged or destroyed.
Three homes were destroyed in Upper Pappinbarra, and four were burnt out in Bellangry during the blazes in November 2019. Many more families lost fencing and outbuildings around their properties.
The Pappinbarra Community Recovery meeting gave everyone in the valley and beyond the chance to catch up with friends and neighbours. The council provided food and soft drinks at Hollisdale Hall, and had a table full of the latest advice and contact numbers for anyone needing help.
Laura Roots from Upper Pappinbarra sheltered inside her home cuddling her baby daughter, Phoebe, during the terrible firestorm which destroyed three of her neighbours' homes last November. Her husband fought the flames around the property and saved their home. Now, Laura is grateful to BlazeAid for helping fence around her property.
"Emotionally and physically, BlazeAid have supported me and my husband and our daughter, helping us as humans, and helping us rebuild our lives," she said.
"We can move forward now. We have been in limbo for a while now. The community has come together more than ever and I reckon BlazeAid has a lot to do with it," she added.
BlazeAid volunteers work in a disaster-affected area for many months, not only helping individuals and families, but also helping rebuild the local community.
BlazeAid are currently at Wauchope Showground and you can call there, or ring camp coordinator David Edgerley on 0418 530 471 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Local firefighter and community activist Lisa McLeod welcomed everyone from Pappinbarra and beyond to the meeting, including BlazeAid volunteers from Europe, South America and all over Australia.
"It feels a bit surreal to be in this position talking to you again after our 2017 fires. It did not come as a surprise, though. As a member of our local fire brigades in the valley, we realised that it was only a matter of time before we would have to fight a fire again," she said.
"To the family affected by these fires, welcome, and I feel your pain. We're ten weeks on from the fire and we still have active fire in the valley in some remote spots. The recovery and rebuilding is such a slow process and the scars will remain for a very long time. I hope you reach out when you need a hand."
Lisa McLeod praised Kelly Osmand for the fantastic job she did looking after the community, and Heather Smith for sharing important information on Facebook. She praised the firefighters who helped save homes and lives.
"I urge you all to have a fire plan to help keep you safe, and us firefighters safe. The rain is very welcome," she added to tumultuous applause.
Mayor Peta Pinson said everyone had been through extremely tough times over the past few months.
"We've never seen anything quite like this before, and to see our beautiful country, Australia, on fire, has been shocking. Thank you to BlazeAid volunteers for helping us to recover and rebuild. We are here to support the community in any way we can," added the mayor.
Council manager, Craig Swift McNair said they are working very hard with the lead agency, the NSW Office of Emergency Management.
To find out more about what help is available, go to www.emergency.nsw.gov.au and go to the regional recovery newsletters. Also more information is available on the council's website via:
The council general manager said it was crucial that no-one was left out.
"Have we captured everybody who has been impacted by these fires? If you want to talk to us about waste disposal, and the clearing of your properties, talk to council," said Mr Swift McNair.
Dan Bylsma from the council said that the bridge destroyed by fire in early November at Upper Pappinbarra has been demolished and a side track put in as a temporary measure, with potential rainfall in mind. He said the reconstruction of the bridge will happen, it will be maintained at the existing crossing height, and the council will update the community about it.
The other key assets are the playground facilities, tennis courts and Rural Fire Service sheds at Upper Pappinbarra. Mr Bylsma said the water tanks for the RFS shed have arrived and will be installed from Monday January 20. He said builders will be quoting on the tennis courts and playgrounds this week, and using funds from the cancelled fireworks event to make the facility bigger and better than ever.
David Edgerley from BlazeAid explained that the organisation is entirely voluntary, and works on fences, and have only recently received government aid, since Christmas. He urged people to fill in forms and apply for what they needed. He said it was wonderful to see the community pulling together in the face of such challenges, and getting out of a rut.
Major events, such as the current NSW bush fires, that cause widespread loss and distress impact the whole community.
If you have been impacted by the recent fires, you might feel things like frustration, sadness and anxiety, or have trouble sleeping or remembering things. This is a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Having someone to listen and support you at times like this is important.
People recovering from bush fires are being encouraged to access mental health and counselling services. The resilience of people in regional communities is well known, but no one should feel like they need to go it alone in the coming days, weeks, or months.
Sometimes it's difficult to talk about what's going on but it's important to reach out if you need help. This could be as simple as sending a text, a message on social media, inviting someone over for a cuppa or making a phone call. The following are free services available 24 hours a day, seven days a week:
- Beyondblue: 1300 22 4636
- Mental Health Line: 1800 011 511
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Mensline: 1300 789 978
- Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800
- If you or someone you know is in immediate danger call 000.
Some tips on managing your recovery: .
- Spend time with family and friends .
- Try to get back into a routine .
- Continue a healthy lifestyle (eating, sleeping, exercise) .
- Take time out but don't isolate yourself .
- Express your feelings in your own way .
- Accept help when it is offered .
- Limit the amount of media coverage you are exposed to .
- Don't expect to have all the answers .
- Understand you are not alone in your experience.
- Keep checking in with your friends and neighbours and looking out for each other
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, SIGN UP HERE.