SA's Red Cross and CFS staff and volunteers step in when emergencies strike

Country Fire Service firefighters Ron, left, from Port Broughton, Stefan from Andamooka, Tom from Yongala and Nick from Wilmington take a breather from their duties on Kangaroo Island.
Country Fire Service firefighters Ron, left, from Port Broughton, Stefan from Andamooka, Tom from Yongala and Nick from Wilmington take a breather from their duties on Kangaroo Island.

Amid the heartache felt as the devastation of bushfires ravage the country - hope remains.

The optimism is shown by crucial organisations like Australian Red Cross and the Country Fire Services who step in when emergencies strike.

Yet the roll out of their vital services isn't possible without the support of their staff and network of volunteers, and equally, the corporate and public funds they receive.

In South Australia, bushfires continue to wreak havoc on Kangaroo Island and the aftermath of December's fires still affect communities in the Adelaide Hills.

Previous to these emergencies, both Red Cross SA and SA CFS were already supporting those dealing with springtime fires across the state, including on the Yorke and Eyre peninsulas.

Red Cross Australia, South Australia

From the ashes, Australia Red Cross director for SA Kerry McGrath points out that the recent generosity shown from SA communities has been "extraordinary" and "humbling".

Describing the bushfires as the "worst" disaster witnessed within her career, she pins her hopes on the generous $47 million donated to Red Cross Australia to fulfil their support relief work.

Significant funds include $2 million pledged by the BHP Foundation, money which will also benefit South Australians.

"We are also totally humbled and overwhelmed by the generosity of support from SA families, kids coming in to donate their pocket money and pensioners giving money," she said.

But Ms McGrath also highlights the worst may not be over with Australia only six weeks into what is being promoted as a long and hot summer.

"It feels like a rolling of events and we have been very, very busy with over 200 staff and volunteers helping," Ms McGrath said.

"These numbers are growing each week as we ramp up the efforts on Kangaroo Island," she added.

Together with their own fundraising initiatives, funds now enable Red Cross SA to offer psychological first aid through relief and recovery centres.

This work means providing specialised support through trained staff who help to alleviate the grief and loss of those who have lost loved ones, a house, animals and more.

"We are clear about our role so we do not duplicate what others are doing," Ms McGrath explained.

In response to the current crisis, on Friday, January 10, the Red Cross 'Outreach Support' was launched.

"Not everyone can get to a centre, either due to disability or older persons, so we have volunteers who will go out and door knock," Ms McGrath shared.

Volunteer support will mean providing information to these vulnerable people, such as gaining grants of up to $5000.

"We have already got money out to people, and the application is easy," she said.

However, when the fires end Red Cross's work is far from over.

"We also provide long-term recovery, well after the fires are out."

"It's a critical time in SA and we will be here as long as it takes to support our communities," Ms McGrath said.

"One, two or five years - we will provide support due to the grief and loss."

SA Country Fire Service

Meanwhile, another bunch of 'guardian angels', the SACFS firefighters, are doing their fair share to support their state, with generous funds also headed their way.

Last week the BHP Olympic Dam team shared it would donate $100,000 to the local CFS Foundation to support local bushfire volunteers with ongoing physical and mental wellbeing support.

"Our thoughts and support remain with Australia through this difficult time, and in the months ahead as communities begin to rebuild," the Foundation's board shared.

In 2001 the CFS Foundation formed to provide immediate financial assistance and care to CFS volunteer firefighters and their families to offset suffering and distress caused in the line of active duty.

Their objectives continue - to provide immediate financial support to CFS volunteer fire-fighters and their families in the event of death, injury or loss of property while engaging in their community service.

CFS chief officer Greg Nettleton says the foundation plays an important role to financially support volunteer firefighters and their families should they be killed or seriously injured in the line of their CFS duties.

"Whilst the CFS provides a wide range of support for our volunteers, the financial support sometimes takes longer than we would like assist our volunteers," he said.

"I am so passionate about supporting the CFS Foundation in its core business of raising funds for the Volunteer Support Fund.

The CFS Foundation receives no financial support from the CFS and all money raised comes from the good people of South Australia.

Generous donors

Donations to Red Cross Australia and the CFS Foundation join the overwhelming bandwagon of generosity shown by corporate and public donations across the country.

This week Aussie billionaire businessman Andrew 'Twiggy' Forrest was reported in the news for providing a $70 million bushfire recovery package.

Master Builders Australia on Friday, January 10, also announced the company donating $150,000 to support those communities affected by the devastating bushfires and the tireless and courageous efforts of those who are fighting them.

On regional levels communities have quickly rallied to organise fundraisers through raffles, stalls and events, and further establish drop off points for goods to assist those affected by the fires.

How you can help

For more information about their Red Cross Australia services and grants, visit www.redcross.org.au.

You can also assist the CFS Foundation by visiting www.cfsfoundation.org.au.

Furthermore, the Australian Government has made is easy and safe for people looking to donate through the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

The agency offers a published a list of registered charities that accept tax deductible donations and bushfire appeals.