As the 12 month anniversary approaches of the devastating and fatal bushfire that ripped through Johns River, the local community is continuing to count the costs.
Long term Wharf Road resident Julie Fletcher died in the fire that roared through the village on November 8, 9 and 10.
Residents remain "on edge" about the possible threat of bushfire, says Johns River RFS member Chris Bawn.
"Our community is still pretty raw and people are still on edge," he says.
"Wharf Road was hit very hard on that Friday (November 8). It is getting close to the anniversary.
"I think people are okay but they are still a bit cautious about fires. Any fires are being reported pretty quickly.
"Those fires burnt out a lot of bush to the east and south of the village, however on the western side there is a lot of areas that were not impacted by fire."
Mr Bawn says the RFS has done a lot of good work in the community engagement space and the message of ensuring people complete a bushfire survival plan and continue to access information through their 'Get Ready' days and the fires near me app remains important.
Wharf Road was impacted on two occasions (November 8 and 9) while the Johns River village was impacted from the south eastern side on Sunday November 10.
"Homes bordering the forests were hit hard while the bushfire also came roaring up along the railway line," he said.
"It also jumped the highway at one point, but the firefighters did a remarkable job in containing it and no further houses were lost."
Mr Bawn urges residents to not become complacent as the 12-month anniversary approaches.
He says while the outlook was for a La Nina weather pattern - a wetter summer - the threat of another extreme weather event is not out of the question.
"It can happen again. However, the RFS and other agencies are taking steps to reduce the amount of leaf and ground litter," he added.
MidCoast Council will host a community information session at the Johns River Hall on November 23 and Mr Bawn suggests this will be a good chance to see how the wider community is recovering.
"Following that event we will hold a community event to check on everyone," he said. "It will be a bit of a touch point to see how the community is feeling.
"There were, of course areas of Johns River that were more impacted that others.
The Johns River Community Hall Committee, of which Mr Bawn is a member of, is also working on plans to have the hall and grounds become more relevant in an emergency situation.
"Our hall is quite big and has two commercial kitchens while we have good, open spaces on our recreation reserve too.
"We are working with MidCoast Council on identifying upgrades for the hall."
Mr Bawn said having a generator or having an extra water tank would all help if a bushfire threatened in the future.
Mr Bawn said there were plans moving forward to see the building of a new RFS Fire Station at Johns River.
He was also positive about an influx in state government funding to upgrade RFS vehicles and trucks.
"It will be good to see the brigades being resourced with the latest in technology and the upgrading of some trucks.
"A new station costs between $350,000 and $450,000 but would replace our 1970's single bay brick building that we have outgrown."
Mr Bawn was in the unique position of working in the Lake Cathie area when the Crestwood Road fire raced south just over 12 months ago.
He said that fire burnt right behind his workplace on Forest Parkway. The RFS member took it upon himself to door knock his neighbourhood encouraging residents to make the decision to leave or defend their homes. "Most of them left early," he said.
Despite it jumping Houston Mitchell Drive (the Ghost Road) at one point, the tremendous efforts of fire crews saw it contained "very quickly".
"You could see the plumes of smoke heading this way. It was a bit of a tense afternoon (on October 29).
"It was very fast and it came down the coastline between Lake Innes and Ocean Drive."
Fellow employee Glen Dale - a member of the Lake Cathie RFS - said back burning at the Perch Hole was working until it spotted over the top of them.
"We were quite fortunate to not lose any homes or fences, although there was a loss of bushland and animal life," Mr Dale said.
"It quite literally lapped at the back of the homes on this road.
"The 737 (water bomber) was utilised and although there were some flare-ups, it was pretty well contained.
"The community, particularly local businesses, got behind us with donations - including food - which was really welcome."
The duo were kept busy during that peak of the bushfire, sometimes working up to 18 hours straight.
Both volunteer firefighters said residents should approach their local RFS brigade and ask questions about maintaining their property, obtain a bushfire survival plan and learn other tips on bushfire safety.
A positive spin-off from the traumatic bushfires of 12 months ago is the number of volunteers who have joined the RFS.
The Lake Cathie brigade has about seven or eight new volunteers while the Johns River RFS has almost doubled its crew numbers with an additional seven members trained ready for this fire season.
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