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Longwood thank-you event attracts big crowd
About 450 people attended a special barbecue at the Longwood Community Centre on Sunday 29 March, to thank firefighters and landholders affected by the devastating 5500 hectare bushfire at Creightons Creek late last year.
Story by Anthony Cini
The thank-you event attracted members from about 25 fire brigades near and far as well as Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett, CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson and Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley.
The brainchild of Longwood Rural Fire Brigade Captain Shaun Hearmon, the event was a reminder of the hard work and dedication of thousands of volunteer firefighters who battled the blaze morning and night mid-December last year, including on Christmas Day.
Shaun said the support he had received for the event was outstanding.
“No one that was approached said no to coming to the barbecue. The amount of people who attended is mind-blowing. It’s actually quite humbling. It was a beautiful day at a lovely venue. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
He said he was incredibly appreciative that Chief Officer Euan Ferguson changed his plans at the last minute so he could attend the event.
During his speech, Euan said the district faced a “serious situation” last year and emergency service workers and volunteers rose to the occasion.
“The CFA is born of the community. The organisation is nothing without volunteers.
“In times like these, we ask more of our members to take on various roles on the fireground, which means younger members stepping up and making important decisions.
“I take great pride in seeing how hard our volunteers work so it is fitting that we come together and unite.
“Whatever role you played during the Creighton’s Creek fire, I thank you for being there.”
Affected resident Brian Kelly said, as a volunteer firefighter, he was used to being on the ‘giving end’ and never on the receiving end, but he was forced to defend his own property.
“You don’t think of going home to defend it from fire,” he said. “I can’t begin to thank the community for their efforts last year."
Robbie Rae is a member of Violet Town brigade and was also at the event in her capacity as Strathbogie Shire Rural Recovery Officer.
"If you want something to happen just get a bunch of farmers who volunteer for the CFA together and they just get it done," she said.
"I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community. We went to pick up some salads from the local cafes yesterday and what they had all made was far above and beyond our expectations. The two bakeries gave all the bread and bread rolls. The local supermarket gave soft drink, and all the beer and wine was donated from local breweries.
"We were also joined by Need for Feed the Pakenham Lions who came up the day before, delivered fodder to the various property owners then camped the night at the Longwood Rec Reserve and were on hand to join in with the festivities. They had a display and right on cue a big semi full of hay pulled in for a lunchtime feed."
Minister for Emergency Services Jane Garrett said the work of the CFA was greatly acknowledged and respected.
“The affected communities are just beautiful in the way they have recovered from a ferocious fire,” she said.
“All the emergency services, including CFA, State Emergency Service and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning used the utmost professionalism in their firefighting efforts and must be acknowledged and honoured.”