Page 137

others. He seemed to have some innate ability to ease

in the field where these things occurred and felt that the

the Esperance Shire, including blazes at Cape Arid,

the tension and calm the atmosphere. The Chaplin then

experience was invaluable for his role. I have since had

Merivale and north of Salmon Gums. With the return of the

said a prayer to the 40 or 50 people that were gathered,

personal contact with some of those that the Chaplin

Cascade fire to shire jurisdiction, all expenses were once

before we were back in the chopper and flying to Grass

spoke to, and they have expressed their sincere thanks

again foot by the shire. To put the enormity of the scale

Patch. We left the location with it seeming in better spirit

that he was able to come along for the ride.

of works into perspective, the combined fire scars from

and everything more under control.

the 15th to 26th November, covered 310,000 hectares. The teams I visited on the ground were working extremely

At Grass Patch I spoke to a team that were doing a bit

well together. Scaddan also had an extremely proactive

The Shire CEO is to be commended for stepping up to

of back burning in Roberts’ swamp. Once again, the

group. Every morning Ash Stewart would pop into the

fund the continuation of the chaining effort that protect

Chaplin eased through the crowd. He worked calmly

co-location shed and sit around the table, listening to

those farms both to the west and east. DPAW were also

and quietly, picking up a few more contacts to catch up

what the plans for the day were to be. He would then

incredibly supportive of what needed to be done. Many

with later.

head straight out to Scaddan, where up to 200 volunteers

businesses and contractors chipped in to allow the

would be waiting there for him to pass the information

work to continue, at reduced or no cost to the Shire. The

We effectively spent most of the day at those two locations,

along. I have had feedback from people about how good

extraordinary generosity of community members and

sorting through issues, while the chaplain quietly spoke

this system was and how much they appreciated Ash’s

those further afield, will not be forgotten.

to those affected. It was amazing to witness him work

efforts. Where there are strong brigades, there are strong

with people. While I had a common thread with those

groups of people that work well together. We are fortunate

fighting and the issues they faced, he seemed to be able

that in this region we have numerous very professional

to check in on their spirits and how they were coping.

and very strong brigades.

The Chaplin was very quiet on the flight back. I turned

On Friday, I was at the police station for most of the day,

to him and asked, half in jest, whether he might need

providing a statement. Suffice to say that I didn’t enjoy it

some counselling now. He proceeded to tell me how

much. I ended up leaving early as things at the Merivale

astonishing the experience had been for him, he had

fire started to go pear shaped. Fires seemed to dominate

never seen anything like it. As DFES Chaplin, he had

everything for another week, before things started to

always been in an office in Perth, where people suffering

settle down.

trauma from car accidents or house fires came in to see him. He had never had the opportunity to be out

In the end, there were essentially four fires that fell within

TOM BROWN | pg 135

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