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Firefighter and Charles Sturt student Ben Pearce shares insights from the NSW bushfires front line

Firefighter and Charles Sturt student Ben Pearce shares insights from the NSW bushfires front line

This month, firefighters around the country have been fighting some of the worst bushfires ever seen in New South Wales and Australia.

It has been utter devastation for many members of regional NSW with many homes and lives being lost. It is also unlikely to subside anytime soon, with a long and dry summer ahead.

In these times, we always see the best come out in people, from donations coming from Bathurst PCYC being taken up to those in Taree, neighbours looking after their fellow community members and Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie housing the many firefighters who when faced with a fire, run in to try and save people and our homes.

Firefighters and students on campus at Port Macquarie

These firefighters come from all around Australia to lend a hand, including Charles Sturt Emergency Management student Ben Pearce, a member of the South Australian Country Fire Service (SA CFS).

The members of the SA CFS have been on the ground over the last few weeks fighting these major fires.

“Over the past few weeks the SA CFS has been deployed to assist the RFS in the major fires across the state of NSW,” Pearce said.

“The roles of the volunteer firefighter from the SA CFS was to attack some of the fires that threaten assets like houses and sheds, extinguish spot fires, and to perform mop-up duties.”

Along with Pearce, firefighters from the SA CFS are a mixture of age and experience with the catastrophic fires bringing up memories and emotions.

“The younger firefighters on the field commented on how on the ground it was nothing like any of them had seen,” Pearce said.

“The older demographic commented on how it was similar to previous fires in SA such as Pinery bushfire in and the lake Wangary fires of 2005.

“All firefighters, including myself, felt very anxious but also excited to help the communities that had been affected.

Photo: Australian Associated Press

With winds high, an abundance of heat and rough terrain, the conditions were not favourable to Pearce and his crew, saying that the unpredictability made fighting the fires very challenging, but also that the weather assisted them.

“The conditions were dry, hot and crazy, working around fires that were higher then some of the trees was hectic, protecting assets was one of the main priorities so putting out fires to protect houses was very important,” Pearce said.

“Fire is unpredictable and change in a matter of minutes due to humidity, wind and temperature. The weather may have assisted in fighting the blazes which assist the RFS in reducing the number of fires in the state.”

As a firefighter, Pearce stressed that monitoring the fires and having a bush fire plan are crucial if you are in a danger area.

“My advice to people who live in the danger zone is to continue to monitor the situation on the ABC radio and the television,” said Pearce.

You should also create a 5-minute bush fire plan, which can be accessed on the RFS website to prepare for the fires, as well as having a box full of precious memories that are easy to take with you should the chance arise.

“If you have any concerns ring the RFS bushfire hotline on 1800 679 737.”

Pearce explained that studying a Bachelor of Emergency Management has helped him in these tough conditions but also in his future endeavours.

“The study I’ve been doing at CSU has helped me speak to my leaders about strategies. What could we use during offensive and defensive?” Pearce said.

“The bachelor is based on incident management, so much of the learning is based in backline work and some in the frontline.

“Incident management is something I would like to do in the future. When I finish my degree I would like to do my graduate in bush fire investigation and grad in leadership and management,” said Pearce.

This is an SSAF funded initiative
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