MICK Wight reflects with pride on the stunning success of a relief operation to help East Gippsland community members devastated by bushfire.
Monday, January 10 marked the two-year anniversary of the delivery of a semi-trailer full of supplies, most of which were delivered directly to the Buchan Fire Station.
That was barely more than a week after the now captain of Leongatha Fire Brigade put out the call for people in Leongatha and further afield to assist.
Seeing the devastation the bushfires had inflicted and the many people left with nothing took an emotional toll on Mr Wight, prompting him to act swiftly.
So often maligned as a tool for negativity, social media came to the fore, with a January 2 post on the Leongatha Fire Brigade Facebook page rallying support.
“After seeing first-hand the catastrophic result from the bushfires in East Gippsland, we are hosting a drop off point for donations for the broader community of East Gippsland impacted by the devastating fires,” the post stated.
Details were provided of the kinds of items needed and people were advised to drop off donations at Leongatha Fire Station on the weekend of January 4 and 5.
Expectations of donations totalling six to eight pallets of goods were smashed, with the eventual number being about 50 pallets.
“Everything you can think of, we had it,” Mick said of the crucial donated supplies.
That included food, toiletries, water, milk, dog food and sanitary products.
As well as community members, more than 30 businesses contributed to the cause.
A huge operation took place to prepare the goods for transportation.
“The amount of people we had helping out was unbelievable, family and friends of brigade members, the members (of surrounding brigades), the SES.”
Everything was donated, including pallets, pallet jacks, pallet wrapping and all the boxes, along with a truck to move items into storage and another to make the relief drop.
The January 10 delivery to Buchan was a moving experience, Mr Wight explained.
“When you go in there and you see all these people when you rock up with all that stuff, the emotional toll on everyone was pretty up there and everyone had tears in their eyes,” he said.
“It was one of my proudest moments with what I’ve done in the CFA.”
Prior to that delivery, the people of East Gippsland had been reliant on helicopter drops of food.
However, the truck crew was officially authorised to deliver directly to the fire ground.
While not technically a CFA operation, the relief mission relied on the organisation’s facilities and members.
Winning support from within the CFA and the broader community wasn’t difficult, Mr Wight noted.
“We were in it to help the community, so it didn’t take much to convince people to help,” he said.
As well as the supplies delivered to Buchan Fire Station, three pallet loads were sent to Mallacoota by boat, through a contact of Mr Wight.