Country town camaraderie offers relief to bushfire affected communities

Country town camaraderie offers relief to bushfire affected communities

Smoke from the Blackford bushfire darkened the sky above Lucindale on Monday, January 11. Communities within SA’s south-east are showing their support in the aftermath. (Image source: Jessica Dempster)

By Jessica Dempster | @dempsterjess_

The south-east communities of South Australia have united to provide support for the people of Lucindale and Avenue Range following a bushfire on Monday, January 11. 

The communities of Lucindale and Avenue Range experienced mass loss of land, livestock, and infrastructure after an out of control bushfire ravaged the Blackford area. 

At 1:20pm the South Australian Country Fire Service posted on social media that an “uncontrolled” bushfire on Blackford road was burning towards the town of Lucindale. 

At least 100 residents of Lucindale were forced to evacuate their homes while other people in the area were told it was too late to leave and to seek shelter from the approaching fire. 

The fire was initially believed to be caused by a burning rubbish pile that reignited, spreading due to intense heat and wind on Monday, said Naracoorte CFS volunteer Harry Lawson.

The Naracoorte CFS arrived on the scene between 2pm and 3pm and were mainly concerned about protecting the town of Lucindale. 

The fire started out by Avenue Range and “quickly started heading towards Lucindale,” said Harry. 

“With the heat and the wind, it was moving pretty fast and due to the condition of the land [in that area] there was a lot of potential for it to spread.”

“It was intense out there, at first not everyone knew what was going on.”

“We had a tonne of people out there and [the CFS] called a lot of people in from Adelaide and Bordertown to help out.”

“We got it under control Tuesday morning when the wind dropped off and it cooled down a bit,” said Harry.  

Damage from the fire exceeded 14,000 hectares of burnt land and caused significant loss of fencing and livestock according to the SA Country Fire Service’s incident update posted to Facebook on January 12. 

The SA Country Fire Service confirmed that at least three structures were lost or substantially damaged.

After days of devastation, the communities of the south-east came together to provide relief for the Lucindale and Avenue Range communities. 

Lucindale locals show their support for the CFS by writing on the wall of the Lucindale Hotel on Thursday, January 14. (Image Source: Georgie Mckay)

On Wednesday January 16, the Lucindale Hotel enlisted locals to create a chalk mural on the side of the hotel as a show of gratitude for firefighters. 

A few days after the fire, one of SA’s largest hay runs arrived in Lucindale to provide support for the community and those who had properties impacted by the fire.

This was the second Mount Gambier Hay Run for organiser Adam Smith, with his first having provided relief for bushfire victims in Keilira and Kangaroo Island in 2020. 

The Mount Gambier Hay Run was established by Adam and his mate Scott Simpson in 2019.

The idea came from Scott’s daughter, Zoe, who was inspired by an A Current Affair news segment in which another young girl was organising fundraisers to help drought-affected farmers.

After creating a Facebook page and organising hay runs during 2020, Adam said they received lots of calls on Monday January 11 regarding organising a hay run for Lucindale. 

The purpose of these hay runs is to donate hay to affected farmers to help feed their livestock and compensate for loss of produce. 

Once he got approval from authorities, Adam put out a call for farmers, truck drivers, and truck companies, calling for hay donations and trucks with trailers for their hay run to Lucindale on January 16. 

“We got it done in pretty much three days,” said Adam.

“We put the call out Tuesday [January 12] and by Wednesday we had over two to three hundred bales donated … it was unbelievable.”

On Saturday January 16 a convoy of nearly 70 trucks and more than 3000 bales of hay departed from Mount Gambier for Lucindale.

“I drove in and was like ‘oh my god’ and the emotions started rolling in,” said Adam.

The hay bales were a combination of donations from individual locals, truckdrivers and truck companies.

Several trucks travelled from Victoria to participate in the run as well, the support was “fantastic” said Adam. 

The event caught the attention of Cosi and 7News whose coverage helped out with publicity and attracting more donations.

The Mount Gambier Hay Run: Saturday, January 16. (Image Source: Adam Smith)

Local MP’s Nick McBride, originally from Lucindale, and Tony Pasin also showed support for the event helping organise the Victorian fleets and talking with Lucindale locals at the event.

“We’re very thankful for Nick Mcbride’s and Tony Pasin’s contribution, and we’re extremely thankful and proud of the local communities who came out to support Lucindale,” Adam said.  

The show of local support continued with the Lucindale Hotel hosting a fundraiser Friday January 22.

The event included an auction, sausage sizzle, and meals and drinks being served with all proceeds donated to those affected by the fire. 

Adelaide Crows players Taylor Walker, Darcy Fogarty, Lachlan Sholl, Kieran Strachan, and Jackson Hately were in attendance to show their support for the community.

On Saturday locals were invited to have a kick with the players at the oval before the Crows visited fire affected areas. 

Fundraising efforts will continue in the coming weeks by independent agencies and local businesses from the surrounding communities providing donations and goods to support those affected.

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