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Project: BlazeAid Support for Corryong

24 Feb Trip Report | Comments Off on Project: BlazeAid Support for Corryong

The weekend of the 8th & 9th of February saw another BlazeAid support trip conducted by the Melbourne Jeep Owners Club, this time heading over 450km north of Melbourne to the fire ravaged Corryong area. The team consisting of members Robert Sharp, Ronald Maskell, Ian Fletcher, Jeremy Olney, Alan Turner, Lyle Potgieter and new member Aaron Stockton (on his very first trip with MJOC) set out in Convoy Friday afternoon and arrived shortly before midnight to immediately setup camp and get some needed rest, ready for the following days’ work. Day 1 began as every day did with a hearty breakfast put together by the local Lyons club & Rotary Club followed by a daily mandatory safety briefing from Bill (BlazeAid Corryong Coordinator). The MJOC club members were then split up into pairs and allocated to support separate BlazeAid crews sent out to various farmers and land owners affected by the bushfires that savagely swept through the area. It was the first time the teams could see the magnitude of devastation the fires had caused the township and surrounding area having arrived in darkness the night before and we quickly realized the huge task at hand that which gave our teams a great opportunity to see the diverse tasks that were required at different properties and the equipment being used in these tasks. The teams assisted mainly in removing burnt or destroyed fencing, installing Strainer posts, fence posts, star pickets and fencing wire to several properties.

Corryong is located in a valley and the surrounding hills have clearly been ravaged by the fires in every direction. Some patches of green can be.

On day 2 of this weekend the MJOC crew were brought together for a particular BlazeAid project at Ross & Jan’s property after the fires lapped at their door prior to them being evacuated by Police. The fires tore through Ross & Jan’s property rendering many trees dangerous, burnt through the core and some even appeared to have warped due to the heat of the flames. The MJOC crew had at least 4 members with their Chainsaws and accreditation and were paired up with a spotter and began the work of clearing just over 90 trees that were deemed dangerous. The team got started early whilst the weather and wind was in their favour with a huge portion completed by lunchtime.

Ross & Jan invited us up to the house to have our lunch and Jan kindly made a batch of her excellent scones with Jam & Cream and put on the coffee for us. It was a great opportunity for us to get to know Ross & Jan better and allowed them the opportunity to unburden and share of their horrifying experience which they were thankful for us just to listen. Ross told of the final moment before they were evacuated by the Police as he made a last min dash towards the flames carrying a Jerry can of unleaded petrol to top up the water pump that was pumping water from the river to the sprinklers on the roof protecting their home as Jan and the family dog were driven off to the evacuation area by Police. It’s hard to comprehend what the people of Corryong and other communities affected by the recent bushfire disasters have had to endure and although I can only speak for myself, it certainly put things into prospective for me as I’m sure it did every other MJOC team member and all the BlazeAid volunteers working around the numerous sites around Australia. After lunch was done, we set about tackling 3 problem trees together that posed a more significant threat by their sheer size, their direction of lean and the core damage sustained by the fire which prevented traditional methods of tree felling being employed.

We grouped together to discuss the course of action and quickly began the task at hand which in some case, required a gentle pull with drag chain and extension strap and then reducing the size of the tree to more manageable pieces. As the day progressed, the chainsaws were taking their toll on the arms and shoulders but we finally achieved the days goal shortly after 4pm when we packed up, said our farewell (but not goodbye) to Ross and Jan who were viably overwhelmed with the help and support for their home as was every other recipient of support from BlazeAid Volunteers. As we drove back to camp for a shower, refreshment and even on the 5 hour long drive home, the discussions revolved around when our next BlazeAid trip will be, what we need and and even the return to Corryong to check in on Ross & Jan and help another few families in the area that need peoples help support.

(Left to right) Melbourne Jeep Club members Jeremy Olson, Ronald Maskell, Aaron Stockton, Ian Fletcher, Alan Turner, Robert Sharp & Lyle Potgieter Supporting a local restaurant for dinner Saturday night and planning for future BlazeAid support projects

It was long, hard work the entire weekend but I know that every volunteer felt that their time and effort spent was extremely rewarding and will certainly in our opinion, be the way we’d like to show our support both physically and financially to communities in need and will gladly do it again in some of the numerous trips already planned for further community support to BlazeAid and other community areas in need and strongly encourage those who are considering supporting those affected by disasters to get on board and help anyway they can.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this particular trip happen and look forward to working with other Melbourne Jeep Club members in future community projects.

Our next trip is being led by Glen Tunny from 28th February – 1st March in Buchan so if your free and want to help, jump onto our trips page and book on.

MJOC Community Projects, where “We Get ’em Dirty” applies to our Jeeps, and our members!