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Community spirit high in Wye

28 December 2015

On Christmas morning, Wye River Fire Brigade Captain Roy Moriarty held a meeting to review and confirm the town’s fire plan – a plan developed by locals that would eventually save the lives of hundreds of community members and visitors to the area.

Soon after, with a fire in the landscape and with conditions rapidly changing, Roy was on the blower calling Wye River CFA volunteers to inform them that a Watch & Act message was in place and the town should evacuate.

Swinging into action, the brigade’s Auxiliary members Christine Shaw (President, pictured 5th from the right), and Katrina Blake (4th from the right) singlehandedly coordinated the evacuation, managing traffic flow out of the town.

“Everyone was so calm and patient,” said Christine. “Most of the locals knew about the fire danger already through the FireReady App so they were ready to go, but we also had to help visitors and tourists that were trying to come into the area.

“So many visitors and campers knew that we were on fire alert, thanks to the emergency services that visited the campground and spoke with everyone a few days earlier,” said Katrina.

“I was telling them – there is a fire, do you have water? Do you have blankets? You need to leave now and go to Apollo Bay.”

Thanks to the efforts of Christine and Katrina, the evacuation went seamlessly, and everybody made it out to safety in time.

Once the town was successfully evacuated just after lunch, Christine and Katrina moved into the Surf Life-saving Club with 10 other people, where they were told by emergency services to bunker down and wait.

“The police and firefighters told us to stay in the surf-life saving club, and they checked on us regularly,” said Christine.

“At no point did we feel unsafe. We knew our CFA volunteers were protecting the club and campground and thanks to their amazing efforts the whole area didn’t go up in flames.”

Safe in the clubrooms, Christine and Katrina watched as the fire tore through Wye River, destroying homes.

“The helicopters were amazing, but when the sun set and the wind picked up, things suddenly got very intense,” said Katrina.

“There was nothing we could do, the wind just threw the fire around the town and once it jumped the river we thought it didn’t look good.”

Relief arrived close to 3am when the rain passed over the area, bringing some reprieve for the firefighters.

In the morning, having spent the night attending to minor injuries and exhausted firefighters, Christine and Katrina had another challenging task – 150 hungry, tired firefighters who arrived at their door.

“All they wanted was some where to lie down, to get a cup of tea or coffee and something to eat,” said Christine.

“Thankfully we had plenty of uneaten Christmas lunch leftover!”

Christine and Katrina are still in Wye River and have been since Christmas Day, supporting firefighters and other emergency services workers.