Blaze Aid at Edithburgh – November 2019

The fire started on Wednesday, 20 November, 2019. It was a very hot north windy day, with the temperature reaching 44 degrees.

The fire started at Yorketown, just by the water tower on the Stansbury Road. It burnt through to the coast, by the Troubridge Lighthouse and, with a wind change in the early hours of Thursday, burnt up to the back fences of Edithburgh township.

A total of over 5,000 hectares burnt; 7 homes damaged or destroyed and 11 sheds destroyed. Six water bombers, along with the local CFS, attended the fire. In total, 52 CFS brigades had crew or units at the fire. Approximately 142+ hours were spent fighting and mopping up the fire.

Early on the Thursday morning, the CFS called for the big Jet bomber from Sydney. It arrived over Edithburgh around mid-morning. By this time the fire had been contained but it did a couple of runs dropping a pink retardant. There were some strange, pink sea gulls seen flying around Edithburgh!

Luckily there were no lives lost but to quote one of the farmers who was fighting the fire, “It was so noisy and it was just trying to kill us.”

Blaze Aid
Helping Communities Rebuild After a Natural Disaster. Check out their website for more information at

First visit
Having worked in Yorketown for over 15 years, we knew a lot of the people that had been affected, so on 10 December we took the caravan to join the Edithburgh Blaze Aid camp. We had rung the camp coordinator a couple of days before hand and they had our names on the list for tea and mine on the workforce for the next day.

Tea was served just after 6pm, after they had a muster of all the workers, at which the team leaders gave a short run down of what they had done for the day. As this happened each night, some of the leaders got quite imaginative with their reports. A lovely meal was had that night supplied by the Pt Rickaby Progress Association. Eileen was on kitchen and cleaning duties for the week while I did the outside work. Blaze Aid had put in power points for the caravans with the camp being at the old school, which is now used by the Light Church.

We were split up into work groups with a team leader and 5 or 6 helpers; all were issued with name tags, safety vests, gloves and protective glasses. Each group had a fully equipped tandem trailer.

A cooked breakfast was supplied at 6:30am each morning, with each person making their own lunches and morning teas, with food supplied. At 7:15 each morning we had a muster to give us a safety talk and send us on our way – a well organised team.

Morning Muster

Les worked 3 days cleaning up fence lines, then had 2 days off, and then back into the field for another 3 days. Each day we had 5 crews in the field from 7:30am until 3:30-4:00pm.

Clearing fence line

Second Visit

We headed for Edithburgh again on 15 January for our second stint. The original coordinators that where running the Edithburgh camp had been called up to run the camp on Kangaroo Island, so a couple of locals, Karen and Graham Warren, took on the job.

On this run we started putting up fencing. Eileen, again, was on kitchen and cleaning duties. Les worked 4 days and then we had day off as a thank you day for all the volunteers. It was a great day with a cricket match – Emergency Services v Farmers, and a game between the two local football teams. On Monday it was back in the field, fencing for another 3 days.

The fencing material was supplied by the land owners and we supplied the labour, cleaning out post holes, putting in new posts and hopefully getting them in a straight line, running out the wire; with the landowners straining the wire, stapling the wire to the posts and fence spacers in between the pine posts.

Some stats

• 25 properties completed
• 253 kms of burnt fencing removed
• 162 kms new fencing erected
• 255 volunteers contributed
• Equating to 130 days of work

On one farm they carted out 160,000 tonnes of stones from old stone fencing. All of these stones would have been picked by hand, and carted using horse and dray.

The camp closed after 2 months. When the camp first started, the farmers were still trying to finish harvest and to have a number of grey nomads offer help to clean up was very overwhelming but, when they saw what could be done, they had nothing but praise for the help they got. As one farmer said, “We got done in weeks, what would have taken them months to do on their own.” And just to have new faces and people to talk to, certainly lifted their spirits.

We met a lot of new people and had a great time helping out some of my old clients from our Yorketown days.

Happy crew waiting for lunch

Les and Eileen Butler