Killarney firey’s ‘unforgettable’ bushfire deployment
Killarney Rural Fire Brigade member Olivia Wright was just six months into active membership when she was deployed to the 2019/20 Canberra bushfires.
What she saw in that time would forever change her perception of the lifesaving role.
Rural firefighting has always been a family affair for Mrs Wright, with her sister-in-law Vicki Wilkinson and brother-in-law Kris Duncan both involved in the Massie RFS.
But in her first deployment, miles away from home, she still didn’t know what to expect.
“We knew it was pretty big but to see the devastation left behind was quite dramatic,” she said.
“You think about the wildlife lost their habitat, the people who lost homes and livelihoods and it hits home.
“We can still go home and know we have a home to go to, a job to go to. But these people had to rebuild their lives from the ground up.”
The Canberra fire eventually burned about 80 per cent of Namadgi National Park, 1444ha of the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, and 3350ha of rural land, making it one of the biggest natural disasters in the ACT’s history.
Working 12-hour days with New Zealand and Australian crews in unbelievably “hard and hot” conditions, Mrs Wright said the thing she took away was the generosity of people who had lost everything.
From cheering on at the airport to fridges on the side of the road filled with refreshments for fireys, Mrs Wright was touched by the “unreal” support.
“At one particular fridge we stopped there was permanent maker so we could sign the fridge,” she said.
“That was really a boost of morale, people who have been through everything and they still have all this appreciation inside them.
“It’s something I will never forget.”
Mr Wright recently received a NSW Citation for her effort during the bushfires and said it went to show why more residents should join local RFS brigades.
“It’s a great feeling to get out there and help the community,” she said.
“You don’t have to go fight fires if you’re a member – there’s something in it for everybody.
“At the end of the day, it’s so rewarding to save someone’s property, save their livelihoods, and save wildlife.”
To join the Killarney Rural Fire Brigade, phone 0433 368 86.