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TOM BROWN - CONT. along in the lead vehicle. I knew both the people and the

During Wednesday the volume of community members

and chatter I could hear were all things I knew I could

area fairly well and could answer questions about what

calling through started to swell, until there was a

help sort out. There were a lot of issues and concerns

was going on when we got there. Those common threads

constant flow of cars and volunteers. The generosity was

coming in from the affected areas, coupled with a good

proved very useful and highlighted the importance of

incredible, as car after car arrived with boots full of food

deal of pent up emotion.

local knowledge and understanding.

and drink, all purchased at personal expense. As news

The ensuing convoy was massive. Once we returned,

of the devastation spread, the community dug deep,

I was finally asked by DFES to go up to Cascade to talk

helping by whatever way was possible.

to the vollies up there, who were desperate to backburn

I was straight back in the co-location centre. All the

another 12,000 hectares. I was to head up in the chopper

entourage from DFES and DPAW were hitting town, and

I spent the remaining part of Wednesday manning

and work out what the plan of attack would be. I felt the

there was another handover. Our local DFES officer was

radios. Clean up efforts had begun in some areas, while

best way to address a lot of the other issues was to see

stood down for two days, so for a period I became the

fighting continued in others. Being a receiver on radios

people on ground directly, so I made a split decision

local ‘go to’ person.

seemed to work pretty well. The SES had come in to

to use the chopper to make our way around the entire

help with communications, but the volunteers on ground

region. On the way out to the chopper I asked DFES if

I found the co-location operations ran like clockwork. The

really needed a voice they recognised. I also knew the

they could get the DFES chaplain, as I wanted to bring

DFES officers that I worked with had a good knowledge

areas involved and had a good idea what was going on

him along.

base and listened to the local people around them. One

from the comms I had been involved in the day before.

officer in particular was incredibly appreciative of the

It made it easier to work out what was needed in certain

Our first stop was Cascade, where quite a crowd had

knowledge and understood how invaluable an asset it

areas. There were a few holes where producers had

gathered. We landed. I let the vollies know that there was

was. The unwavering dedication of local brigades also

been left to fend for themselves in the chaos of the day

a chopper there for them to use, and about four people

garnered a fair bit of respect and admiration. It came up

before, which we managed to address. The importance

jumped in to go up and have a look at where they wanted

in conversation with a DFES officer. He couldn’t get over

of communications during the event, and the ability for

to back burn. After seeing it from the air they all seemed

the response speed.

those on ground to hear a voice they could relate to was

happier - and knew just what they needed to do. They

quite significant.

decided that they didn’t need to backburn, and with that,

“One call over a radio about a spot fire and suddenly fire

the issue was quickly put to bed.

trucks are roaring out of nowhere – the vollies just jump

By Thursday this became even more obvious. The day

on it,” he had said in amazement. “You see a bit of fire

had started out quite frustratingly for me. I had been pulled

Meanwhile, the Chaplin was gradually easing his way

and they just charge at it!”

in around the planning table, and as I sat there I could

around the crowd. He paused to chat or just say hello,

hear the radio calls in the background. The questions

spending longer with some people than he did with

pg 134 | TOM BROWN

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Our Bushfire Recovery Story  

"Our Bushfire Recovery Story" is a memoir of community strength & resilience. As part of the Recover, Rejuvenate, Restore Project, an invita...

Our Bushfire Recovery Story  

"Our Bushfire Recovery Story" is a memoir of community strength & resilience. As part of the Recover, Rejuvenate, Restore Project, an invita...