IFRC

Bushfires bring devastation to Australia’s Blue Mountains

Published: 23 October 2013 11:48 CET

By Ika Koeck, IFRC, and Australian Red Cross

High temperatures and scorching summer winds have fanned more than 100 bushfires in New South Wales, causing thousands of people to leave their homes, schools and communities. The bushfires, which started on 17 October have led to the declaration of a State of Emergency; so far over 200 properties have been destroyed, the majority of which are in the Blue Mountains.

Australian Red Cross has been working in affected communities since the fires broke out and is currently supporting people in evacuation centres in Springwood, Lithgow and North Richmond.

Like many unsuspecting homeowners, Alison Webb never thought the fire would reach her house. She and her two daughters were at home in Falconbridge, a village in the Blue Mountains region, when the fires started and wind blew embers onto the house. “I never thought we’d get to this point. I thought we’d be OK,” she says.

With no plans at hand – and no notion of what to bring with her – a flustered and worried Alison rescued her children, beloved pets and her daughter’s special blanket before evacuating. It wasn’t until she had reached the Springwood Evacuation Centre and was greeted by a trained Red Cross Volunteer that she finally felt peace and relief.

“Everyone was really calm around us. It was reassuring. Red Cross people greeting us knew what they were doing,” she says. “They registered us and let us know that we’re safe. The knowledge that there was someone to take care of us was such a relief.”

Red Cross volunteers are also going out in the Catherine Hill Bay and Salt Ash areas to check on residents. Volunteer Christine Klum, an Emergency Services Team Leader, explains that a simple visit from a Red Cross member can make a lot of difference. “When people open the door and see us there in our uniforms, they know that we care. Even if they are OK, they still need someone to talk to, someone who will listen to what they have been through,” she says.  

As of 23 October, 73 fires are still raging across the region, 29 of which are uncontained. More than 100 Red Cross volunteers and staff are currently involved in the response and additional teams across the Western Sydney region are on standby in case the situation escalates.




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