Salvos' Emergency Services active in the bushfire crisis in three states as the New Year turns
31 December 2019
As the bushfire emergency escalates, The Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) is supporting firefighters in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
The head of The Salvation Army Disaster and Emergency Services, Major Topher Holland, said “There are huge fires, not just in New South Wales but in South Australia and Victoria,” he said. “Our teams are stretched”.
New South Wales
In NSW, The Salvation Army is manning a number of evacuation centres on the NSW South Coast where a bushfire emergency is underway. These centres include Batemans Bay, Moruya, Narooma and Bega, as well as Tumbarumba in the Snowy Mountains.
Norm Archer, State Coordinator for NSW/ACT Strategic Disaster and Emergency Management, who is assisting at the Narooma evacuation centre, said there had been a huge outpouring of support and assistance. “In Bega, we had 15 volunteers from The Salvation Army and the local footy club make themselves available. We put a food order into Woolworths for breakfast to feed several hundred people and the good staff at the local Woolworths had it all packed up and ready for us – even before they had opened their doors for trading. We are so appreciative.”
Hans Schriver, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Coordinator, Newcastle, is coordinating the state’s SAES response. He said it is a major fire situation, particularly on the South Coast, but Hunter SAES teams are feeding fire-fighters at a fire-staging area in Bulga as well.
The Salvation Army has been activated by local and regional government to provide material aid in relief centres as several large blazes rage in the state’s east.
The centres are in Omeo, Orbost, Lakes Entrance, Bairnsdale and Sale, plus Delegate, on the NSW/Victoria border.
“Our volunteers are at most of those sites providing mattresses, bedding and personal hygiene items, but some had to be evacuated because it wasn’t safe to be there,” said Captain Robert Champion, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management Specialist, Australia.
In Bairnsdale, Salvation Army personnel and volunteers are providing breakfast, lunch and dinner for over 100 people.
“Our catering trucks are currently serving front-line emergency services personnel at the Plenty Gorge fire, which threatened homes in the Melbourne suburb of Mill Park,” said Robert. “Our volunteers are amazing, they have been working very hard, with round-the-clock rosters.”
SAES teams are still serving up to 600 meals a day to emergency services personnel battling bushfires west of Adelaide. Teams have also been put on standby to assist on Kangaroo Island.
Recovery operations are also underway in conjunction with the emergency response. To date, The Salvation Army has issued almost $80,000 in recovery assistance in South Australia.
“We will continue on the recovery journey as long as we need to,” said Captain Robert Champion, Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management Specialist, Australia.
Queensland and Western Australia
In Queensland and Western Australia, The Salvation Army’s efforts have moved from initial response into the recovery phase.