“There were over 150 Gippsland volunteers here and I couldn’t even tell you how many there were from other districts and even interstate. We had so many volunteers and workers up here helping out,” said Benambra brigade Secretary Sue Braggs.
Benambra brigade runs a pre-season BBQ each year to give people a chance to catch up before the fire season – even the pub and local store shut down to join in. This year they’re making it even bigger.
“I’m trying to reach the other brigades in Victoria that were here fighting the fires with us in 2003 and we’d love to see them back here again to thank them for their efforts. The invitation is extended to any volunteers or paid workers that were up here,” Sue said.
“The Benambra community would just like to thank everyone that helped us through – we’d love them to come back because we never got to say a formal thank you. We’re running it a bit early so there won’t be any firefighting this time just a BBQ, dance and a get together.
“It’s great to mix with people who have been there and done it just to appreciate the fact that we’ve made it and we’re still here to talk about it. We’re very lucky that no one was killed.
“It wasn’t a fire – it was a nuclear blast. It would have been much the same in 2009. Trees were frozen in time, animals cooked from the inside out. That was the most devastating – the loss of livestock.
“It was mentally tough but there were also really funny moments. We had firefighters camped in the hall, in the school and in the church for around 60 days – all on blow-up mattresses. Everyone had their dogs tied up at the church and the firefighters were always feeding them biscuits. It was quite funny.
“A lot of nice things happened and everyone made friends, but time passes. This will be an opportunity to see everyone again. If you were involved we would love to see you again. If you were not involved we would still love to see you here.
“Just turn up at Benambra hall at 6pm on Saturday 24 November. We’ll start off with a BBQ sausage sizzle and from there we’ll go on up to the hall to do some awards. All the food is supplied – people just need to bring a plate for supper and drinks for the dance.
“If anyone wants to camp over there’s plenty of space for caravans and tents around the hall as well as the recreation reserve – and there are showers there. People can also stay at the pub.
“We’ve got Suzie Q DJing from our local radio station and a few community members have put some old time music together – a cross section of music to suit everyone.
The brigade is also backing it up with CFA Sunday the next day.
“We’ll be running demos with the new slip-on tanker for CFA Sunday as well as demos with the Benambra truck which has got the new anti-burnover spray system on it. It will be a good day.”