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Marine Rescue extraction at Bawley

Marine Rescue NSW report:

A volunteer crew from Marine Rescue Ulladulla has navigated choking smoke and poor visibility on the water to evacuate five children who had left their homes for the safety of the beach at Bawley Point as a massive bushfire raged on the South Coast.

Marine Rescue NSW crews have been on high alert this week to support the emergency response to the bushfires on the southern coastline, with the Currowan fire burning between Batemans Bay and Ulladulla.

The MR Ulladulla crew, Unit Commander David Hall and Allan Brook, headed into the smoke blanketing the coastline on an operation to evacuate the children and resupply NSW Rural Fire Service firefighters.

Photo Marine Rescue NSW

UC Hall said the unit had initially been requested to transport water and medical supplies to fire crews at Bawley Point before being alerted to the five children located on the beach after their family self-evacuated from home.

He said the smoke had made it difficult to breathe and had significantly limited visibility on the water as rescue vessel Ulladulla 20 headed south.

“We were half a (nautical) mile off Bawley Point and we couldn’t see land. The conditions were a bit rough, too,” he said.

He said the children, three younger girls and two older boys, had been aged between six and 14 years.

After the crew unloaded the supplies for the firefighters, the children were taken on board, fitted with lifejackets and placed in the cabin for the return journey to UIladulla. The mother of four, who also was the aunt of the fifth, also decided to make the trip.

Photo Marine Rescue NSW

The vessel was met by a waiting NSW Ambulance to check the group’s condition before they headed for an evacuation centre in Ulladulla.

Sandra Zerafa later thanked the crew on social media.

“They saved my family from the fires. Allan and Dave I commend you. I love you all so much,” she said. “What would I have done without them. I (am) forever in their favour and debt. God please help our emergency personnel to get through this time. You’re all amazing.”

Photo Marine Rescue NSW

Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey applauded the crew’s actions in ensuring the children were removed to safety from the stressful environment at Bawley Point.

“These children were no doubt distressed by the bushfires and I’m sure the sight of our rescue vessel emerging through the smoke was very reassuring,” he said.

“Our crew members, along with radio operator Deb Talty maintaining communications in the MR Ulladulla radio base, deserve our thanks for their swift and professional response to assist people who needed help quickly.

“Navigational skill and situational awareness is needed when the smoke is heavy enough to cut visibility on the open water to this extent.”

He said the response to a major emergency such as the State’s bushfires required a coordinated effort from all the emergency services working together.

“Marine Rescue NSW volunteers have been on alert and assisting the firefighting operations in recent weeks as the fires have swept down the North Coast are now impacting the South Coast.

“More than 80 of our volunteers also have also been rostered to the NSW RFS Headquarters since early November to assist members of the public calling the Bush Fire Information Line and MR Port Stephens members have been based at the RFS Lower Hunter Fire Control Centre at Maitland.

“I thank them all for their willingness to support their emergency services partners and assist our community in any way they can.”

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