By Steph McNicol
TWO Mitchell Shire Country Fire Authority volunteers, sisters Dionne Quinn and Gaybrielle Burgess, returned from the New South Wales bushfires ‘tired but satisfied’.
Ms Burgess, of Broadford CFA, said there were mixed emotions travelling up to NSW last month.
“We felt nervous, anxious, excited, overwhelmed and humbled,” she said.
“We landed at Armadale in New South Wales and got a bus to Glen Innes which is about half an hour to 45 minutes. The setup we had was amazing. We were very well looked after.”
Kilmore Lieutenant Quinn said there was fear in the unknown of what each day would hold.
“When you’re told the town you’re protecting is about to be impacted, it is scary,” she said.
“Watching the fire come down the hill ready to impact, and all of a sudden the whole fire just turned and … missed the town.”
“You’ve never been in that town before you don’t know how many people are in that town you don’t know the layout of the town,” Ms Burgess said.
“Every incident that we turn up to can be different every time, or go pear shaped at any time. But the end results are always the same – doing what we have been trained to do to the best of our ability.
“We work as a team and then come home to our supportive families.”
The firefighters said they spoke to some of the people protecting their land.
“[We were] talking to a landowner, and he’d had enough. He was at breaking point. He had fires in January this year and he’s been going through the drought the last couple of years and then fires this year,” Ms Quinn said.
“It was heart-wrenching. We know there’s drought going on but to actually see it and see them being impacted the way they have, it’s heart-breaking.”
“But also for them to see us, it was a sigh of relief, and they could say ‘okay I get a break for half an hour or so – I don’t have to worry,’” Ms Burgess said.
The CFA members said everywhere they went people were thanking them.
“It sort of gets you a little bit emotional. Just people saying ‘thank you.’ We hadn’t even gotten off the plane at Armadale yet and we’d already started being thanked,” Ms Quinn said.
“We didn’t put it out completely, but we made a good crack of it.”
When the volunteers were asked if they’d battle the blaze again they said ‘in a heartbeat.’