Some 200 kilometres from the nearest ocean, the New South Wales Riverina town of Adelong played host to a team of 16 Officers and Sailors from Navy People Group in Canberra, who wanted to help people in the fire-affected region.
These members of the Royal Australian Navy came to help the volunteer organisation BlazeAid.
The organisation is conducting work in the area to help farmers repair fencing and clean up their properties, following the Dunns Road fire which devastated the region in early January 2020.
The idea to help BlazeAid came from a casual conversation between Lieutenant Commander Dale Young and his colleagues Captain Letitia Van Stralen and Commander Lucinda Casey.
“As word travelled throughout the office, people were coming to us wanting volunteer, and before long, we had about 16 of us at Navy People Group keen to help,” Lieutenant Commander Young said.
“We have come to Adelong as volunteers to help out the landowners.
“We haven’t had the opportunity to deploy with Operation BUSHFIRE ASSIST, so it’s great to get out of the office and be involved.
“Hopefully this won’t be the last time we volunteer for BlazeAid,” Lieutenant Commander Young said.
The team that Lieutenant Commander Young is part of was rebuilding fences on a property named Claremont, approximately 15 kilometres west of Adelong.
Claremont’s owner, farmer Chris Bright, said that it was a pleasant surprise to see the Navy uniforms turn up with the BlazeAid volunteers.
“As soon as I saw the uniform, I knew they were Navy, as my son (Leading Seaman Boatswains Mate Aaron Bright) is in the Navy, he’s an instructor at HMAS Cerberus,” he said.
“It’s great to have help with the fences.
“Claremont is about 1400 acres and even though I hardly lost any animals, I lost about 18 kilometres of fence line,” Mr Bright said.
The BlazeAid Team Leader for Claremont is retired train driver Lindsay ‘Cos’ Cosgrove, who has been volunteering since 2012. He said it was very rewarding work.
“After these communities have lost so much, it’s very satisfying helping after this type of disaster,” he said.
“We always have many different types of people volunteering.
“The Navy members are very eager and enthusiastic.
“I’ve forged some good friendships and stay in contact with a lot of the farmers and many of the volunteers,” Mr Cosgrove said.
BlazeAid was formed after the devastating 2009 Black Saturday fires and often assists with fires, floods, droughts and cyclones.
There are currently more than 30 BlazeAid camps operating in New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.
BlazeAid volunteers often lift the spirts local communities and are always looking for volunteers. To help or donate, visit their website at: https://blazeaid.com.au/
Imagery is available on the Navy Image Gallery: http://images.navy.gov.au/S20200892.