Fires are raging in northern New South Wales. The ABC reports that “more than 850,000 hectares of land have been razed since the start of this year’s bushfire season” (link). A catastrophic warning is in place for Greater Sydney, Illawara, Shoalhaven and the Greater Hunter on Tuesday.
Last week, my fire zone, Lake George, requested volunteers to go the fires as members of a strike team. To date “more than 1,400 personnel from interstate had joined the firefighting effort in NSW”. 400 more were set to arrive on Monday ahead of Tuesday’s dangerous and catastrophic conditions. I see the movement of volunteers around the state as a profound commitment to the safety of our communities.
I regret that I am missing in action. I have been unable to fulfill my volunteer firefighting duties since May and cannot travel north with my friends. Four firefighters have gone from my brigade as part of the strike team. Another 28 from the zone depart on Wednesday.
As the fires developed, had I been well, I would have asked to go north, possibly on more than one occasion if the Lake George fire zone had accepted my application. Instead, I have a longing for the north that feels like a profound absence in me.
My friends do face a daunting prospect of wildfires. I hope they remain safe in an unfamiliar area. What they are doing is the very essence of voluntary service (link).