- Title: 'No news is good news' for families of Australia's volunteer firefighters
- Date: 24th December 2019
- Summary: WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RURAL FIRE SERVICE (RFS) TRUCK WITH SIREN ON WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 22, 2019) (REUTERS) RFS VOLUNTEER HOSING FIRE FIRE IN BUSHLAND RFS VOLUNTEER HOSING FIRE WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RFS VOLUNTEER ROLLING FIRE HOSE RFS DEPUTY CAPTAIN PICTON RURAL FIRE BRIGADE, ANDREW HAIN (BALD HEAD) WALKING WITH HIS CREW MEMBERS (SOUNDBITE) (English) RFS DEPUTY CAPTAIN PICTON FIRE BRIGADE, ANDREW HAIN, SAYING: "G'day, I'm Andrew Hain. I'm a deputy captain at Picton Rural Fire Brigade. I'm a volunteer fire-fighter. We're out here in Tahmoor and we're patrolling at the moment, just looking. We had some fire activity come through here on Thursday (December 19). Crews worked very hard, just down actually right behind where we're standing and managed to hold it to the southern side of the road." WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 22, 2019) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF RFS VOLUNTEERS OBSERVING FIRE WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) RFS DEPUTY CAPTAIN PICTON FIRE BRIGADE, ANDREW HAIN SAYING: "Catastrophic conditions, we tend to just plan early. I've got a two-year-old and a four-year-old and the last thing we want to do is to be rushing out of there, trying to pack a car and make sure we've got nappies and photo albums and critical documents and that sort of stuff. So, we tend to just go and go early. Which is the message we give to everyone. In these sort of conditions, make it easy for us. Because, if you're gone we can work on houses but if there is people at risk, people are the first priority. So, that's the advice we give so that's the advice we've heeded and my family have gone to Sydney." WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 22, 2019) (REUTERS) RFS VOLUNTEER IGNITING FUEL TO START BACK-BURNING WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA (RECENT - DECEMBER 21, 2019) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (English) RFS DEPUTY CAPTAIN PICTON FIRE BRIGADE, ANDREW HAIN SAYING: "The biggest thing I think that we appreciate, more than any of the goods that we receive, or anything like that, is the thank you. My, probably most prized possession from this fire campaign is a card I got off a 10-year-old school kid, just saying, 'thank you'. So, you don't need to give us anything. We do it because we want to do it. A thank you is all we need."
- Embargoed: 7th January 2020 02:47
- Keywords: Australia New South Wales bushfire fires heat rural
- Location: WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA
- City: WOLLONDILLY SHIRE, AUSTRALIA
- Country: Australia
- Topics: Disaster/Accidents,Wildfires/Forest Fires,Editors' Choice
- Reuters ID: LVA001BBC2IX3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: A crew of volunteers from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) drive at speed to try and save another property.
Australia has been fighting wildfires for months as hot, dry conditions brought about an early start to the fire season. This added to record temperatures over 41 degrees Celsius (105 Celsius) last week as an extreme heatwave swept across the country and a long-running drought in the country's east has created tinder-dry conditions.
For Andrew Hain, Deputy Captain at Picton Rural Fire Service, it's another day away from his family and his paying job, as he risks his life fighting fires for free. Hain, a father of two, is part of the world's largest volunteer fire brigade, that has more than 72,000 volunteers.
Australian communities rely on volunteer brigade's like Hain's to combat fires, an ever-pervasive threat amid rising temperatures around the country.
This summer fire season, however, is quickly turning into one of the worst on record, heaping pressure on volunteers and their families.
A flight route planner at airliner Qantas, Hain has given up much of his end-of-year holidays to fight the fires.
As fires encroached on his property, Hain planned early and sent his family away to Sydney, about 90 kilometres (55.9 miles) away.
"We tend to just plan early. I've got a two-year-old and a four-year-old and the last thing we want to do is to be rushing out of there, trying to pack a car and make sure we've got nappies and photo albums and critical documents and that sort of stuff. So, we tend to just go and go early. Which is the message we give to everyone," Hain said.
To let his wife Kate know he's safe, he abides by a general rule that "no news is good news".
"I have a little emoji of a bald guy with a bit of facial growth giving a thumbs up, and so every hour or so I try and send that emoji to her and she knows that I'm OK," Hain said just after fighting fires in the Wollondilly Shire, just south of Sydney.
"We get into some places and there's not a lot of reception and you know, we've got a sort of thing in place that no news if good news, if she doesn't hear from me. So, we've got plans around it to try and put her mind at ease," he added.
Two volunteer firefighters were killed last week when their truck was struck by a falling tree as it travelled to a fire front.
Bushfires have destroyed more than 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) since they first erupted in spring in an early and ominous start to the fire season.
An enduring drought and record high temperatures have added to the intensity and sparked a debate over whether volunteers should be paid. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced up to four-week paid leave for volunteer firefighters who work as public servants on Tuesday (December 24) during his tour to fire-affected areas across the country.
Hain's wife, Kate Hain, said she is proud of him for contributing so strongly to the local community, but his contributions come at a cost.
"We get nothing and they expect the amount of time and effort and danger they put themselves in, it's just expected. I find that just amazing, that nobody gives us anything," said Kate.
(Production: Jill Gralow)
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