By Alesha Capone
Brave firefighters from across Wyndham have been donating their time to help bushfire-affected communities in the state’s east.
Members of several local fire brigades attended – and are still attending– the bushfires which have devastated areas including East Gippsland, where hundreds of homes have been lost.
Hoppers Crossing Fire Brigade captain Paul Dimartino said he was among volunteers from the brigade who formed part of Strike Team 1428, which travelled to Orbost on December 28.
Mr Dimartino said that on the evening of December 30, a particularly “bad weather day”, the strike team was the only one looking after the town, putting out fires started by “ember attacks” so they did not spread further.
“We basically worked 18-19 hours straight protecting the town, the roads were cut off due the fires and trees falling,” Mr Dimartino said.
“We saw stuff you couldn’t imagine, like in the middle of the day, the sky turns orange for many hours and all of a sudden it goes dark.”
On the relatively cooler days, the volunteers helped to escort buses of people in and out of fire-ravaged towns, and also vehicles carrying supplies of petrol and food.
“Sometimes it wasn’t about fighting fires, sometimes it was about having a presence there to let people know we were there to help and assist them,” Mr Dimartino said.
“Just for them to see us and say, ‘thank you for helping us and being here’ means a lot.”
Mr Dimartino said that in addition to helping out with the bushfires, the Hoppers Crossing brigade helped out with the grassfires in Greensborough and Sunbury, plus call-outs within Wyndham.
He said that since November 12, the brigade had been called to more than 70 jobs within the municipality.
“I’m super-proud, of not only the efforts of the Hoppers Crossing Fire Brigade for going to assist with Orbost and locally as well, but the employers who let them go and their families,” Mr Dimartino said.
“People do this because they love it and love supporting the community, not only locally but further afield.”