CFS Fire Trail

The Country Fire Service (CFS) Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which honours, supports and cares for South Australian CFS volunteers in their time of need. Their major objective is to provide financial assistance to SACFS volunteers and their families who have suffered through death, injury, loss or damage of property while in the line of service. To date, financial support has been provided to more than 80 volunteers and their families.

In South Australia there are over 13,500 CFS volunteers, who volunteer approximately 20 hours per week across 421 brigades.

From Friday 30 September until Monday 3 October they are holding the CFS Fire Trail event, which  is a key fundraising event for the Foundation. The journey will depart from Adelaide on Friday at 3.30pm and return on Monday at approximately 4pm and along the way they will stop off at locations for fundraising events.

I was inspired by the work of the Country Fire Service Foundation after hearing the below story from some of the volunteers and wanted to support them by raising money as part of my participation in Fire Trail 2016.

Captain Chris Coombe has been a CFS Volunteer for some 35 years, leading the Cadell Brigade for the past 10. He is also a respected Custodian Officer of some 22 years.

The Cadell CFS Fire Brigade has 35 active members with many utilising CFS training to support their rehabilitation while they complete their sentence at the Cadell Training Centre.

Over the past 12 months the brigade has been a first response vehicle to 35-40 community emergencies. The Cadell Brigade has been called upon to fight the Sampson Flat and Pinery fires. Chris remembers the brigade heading towards the Pinery fire with a ‘bar heater’ of flames confronting them on the left hand side of their vehicle as they travelled to their collection point.

On 25 May Captain Chris Coombe received a different call. The call advised him of an address he knew very well – his home was ablaze. It was also the home of two other volunteers – his partner Natasha and son Brad.

On this occasion 7 appliances were unable to stop the blaze with their home burnt to the ground as a result of an electrical fault in the ceiling. Natasha remembers that most of the brigade’s members were in tears, unable to save their Captain’s home.

Natasha, Brad and Chris all agree that their feelings and empathy towards homeowners who have lost their homes is now very different. Through their loss, they now have real empathy for others sustaining such devastating losses.

The Coombe’s property was also home for 2 goats, 2 rabbits, their dog Maisie, plus Kira and her pups. They all survived. ‘It’s the sentimental value that is the biggest loss, losing family heirlooms and treasures, plus I was establishing my hairdressing salon which was almost complete,” said Natasha.

Today there is just a little light on the horizon with plans for their new home on the kitchen table. ‘The foundation slab is still in good condition so we have the footprint in place,’ said Natasha.

Chris, Brad and Natasha are all very grateful for the support of the brigade members, the entire Cadell community and the CFS Foundation.

Over the past 18 months, communities in South Australia have experienced the ravages and devastation associated with bushfire. This period provides a snapshot of CFS volunteers’ community service and how it severely impacts on them:

  • Two volunteers lost their lives while fighting state emergencies
  • Three homes of 3 volunteers were burnt to the ground and their properties burnt through the Sampson Flat fire
  • Three homes of 3 volunteers were burnt to the ground and their properties burnt through the Pinery fire
  • 90 CFS Volunteers sustained physical injuries undertaking their service
  • A 21-year-old CFS volunteer sustained more than 56% burns to his body during the Pinery Fire and will undergo more than two years of rehabilitation.
  • In the past 2 months, while undertaking SACFS duties, the home of a brigade captain was burnt to the ground, leaving three CFS volunteers from the one brigade, homeless.

I hope you will support me in raising funds for the CFS Foundation’s Fire Trail – you can make a donation to the Beyond Bank Brigade here.