Former Rural Fire Services Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was the surprise guest at Narooma’s special ceremony on New Year’s Eve to remember the horrific bushfires that started in this area 12 months ago.
Club Narooma, Narooma’s Chamber of Commerce and the Australia Day Committee held a special ceremony to pay respect to all those who saved, rescued, protected and supported us through last summer, especially the amazing volunteers. They also remembered local communities devastated by the bushfires and those who lost loved ones, livelihoods and their homes.
Mr Fitzsimmons said to refer to that time as the Black Summer is a misnomer because the fires started up north long before the summer.
In a moving outline of the devastation those bushfires caused over many months, he said the response to the fires of 2019-2020 was the biggest multi-agency response to a disaster ever seen in Australia with people also assisting from interstate and overseas.
Without notes, he listed the huge tally of destruction down the east coast but said the biggest concentration of destruction and losses were in this area, the far south coast.
He emphasised the long term mental effects, particularly on frontline firefighters, and urged everyone who “is not going okay” to seek help. “There is no shame in this,” adding it is a matter of survival and consideration for those around you especially family.
Narooma Rural Fire Brigade spokeperson Zoe Hart spoke of their experience on the firefront. “Waking up to pagers blasting, that initial unknown of what we will be facing. The sun rising and a blood red sky looming provoked overwhelming emotions in every single one of us… we were all scared shitless for a good two to three weeks.”
She spoke proudly of the performance of the whole Euro South team and how they “faced tasks that are etched in our memories and will be for the remainder of our lives, together as a family”.
She particularly spoke of the fourth principle of the RFS to restore normality which, 12 months on, is still ongoing.
“Today marks a year, it is a day of mourning – the loss of life including firefighters and one of our own, and the loss of hard earned property,” she said. “This day has left a mark on every single person within our community and surrounds. This day, and the long days that followed will be noted on our local and Australian history for generations to come.
“But we must also celebrate the bond that was forged. The RFS, Police, Fire & Rescue, National Parks, Forestry, VRA, RFS Aviation, Ambos, St John and those of you here today and the community out there. We came together and did what needed to be done.
“So tomorrow when we wake to clear blue skies I want you to reflect on the moments passed and to the events that changed our lives, but note how far we have come. We are resilient. We are strong. We are courageous. We are a community and we are still standing.”
At the ‘Narooma Remembers’ ceremony at Club Narooma on New Years Eve were Club President Graeme Reeves, ESC Cr Lindsay Brown, RFS Far South Coast Region Manager John Cullen (well back), Narooma Chamber President Dr Jenny Munro, Narooma Rural Fire Brigade’s Zoe Hart, NSW Commissioner for Resilience Shane Fitzsimmons and ESC Cr Phil Constable. Photo Laurelle Pacey.
At the ‘Narooma Remembers’ ceremony at Club Narooma on New Years Eve were RFS John Cullen, left, Cr Lindsay Brown, Bodalla Rural Fire Brigade’s Ritchey Sealy, and NPWS South East Area Manager Alan Henderson. Photo Laurelle Pacey.
Former RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons had a few moments after the special New Year’s Eve ceremony with members of Narooma Rural Fire Brigade. Photo Laurelle Pacey.