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SAES provide support for thirsty, fatigued Adelaide Hills fire crews

1 February 2021

SAES provide support for thirsty, fatigued Adelaide Hills fire crews

When bushfires recently threatened the Cherry Gardens area of the Mount Lofty Ranges on the outskirts of Adelaide, The Salvation Army Emergency Services (SAES) in South Australia was called out to assist frontline firefighters and support crews.

While the fire had threatened to burn through to the Australia Day public holiday, cooler temperatures and rain on the Monday provided conditions for the Country Fire Service (CFS) to bring the fire under control quicker than expected.

Major David Boughton, South Australia’s Strategic Emergency and Disaster Management coordinator, said his crews had little sleep on the night the fire broke out but as it was brought under control, the need was less great.

Tending to the immediate needs of emergency personnel and evacuees, SAES teams are activated during emergencies such as these to provide nutritious meals, refreshments and support. At the height of this crisis, the teams had prepared up to 300 meals “per sitting” but this was scaled down to 75 by the Monday evening. 2000 meals had been served since the fire broke.

By late Monday night, the CFS had announced that the fire, which had been fought from the air and on the ground, had been contained and only skeleton crews would remain in the area for several days to monitor the remnants of the blaze and to respond to “any flare-ups”.

Backburning, which would normally be done at this point, was not possible because heavy rain had dampened the trees and scrub.

CFS Deputy Chief Officer Andrew Stark said more than 400 firefighters and 50 vehicles battled the blaze, which destroyed more than 2700 hectares of scrub and grasslands. The crews worked on Australia Day to “mop up and black out the fireground”.

Two homes and 17 outbuildings were destroyed but another 60 homes were saved.

Residents in the towns of Longwood, Mylor, Biggs Flat, Scott Creek, Chapel Hill, Cherry Gardens and Mount Bold were in the path of the fire early Monday with residents being told to leave if safe to do so. People living in other areas were asked to keep a close eye on the fire with “watch and act” advice in place.

Andrew said conditions were “very hot” for firefighters with some having suffered stress and dehydration.

The weekend fire came on the back of a large blaze at Blackford about 345 kilometres south-east of Adelaide on 11-12 January, which saw about 15,000ha and three houses destroyed. The SAES team from Mount Gambier was involved in supporting the firefighters during the emergency. About 500 firefighters, 40 fire trucks and airborne waterbombers brought that blaze under control.

SAES crews across the country remain ready to respond to the needs of fire fighters, emergency personnel, evacuees and community members.

This article was first published by The Salvation Army’s online magazine

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