South-west fire-affected farmers urged to seek help

Thanks: Elingamite farmer Tim Howard thanks Blaze Aid volunteers Sarah Butler, left, and Melissa Jones for the work and vouchers for fencing materials that Blaze Aid has given him to replace burnt fencing. Picture: Christine Ansorge
Thanks: Elingamite farmer Tim Howard thanks Blaze Aid volunteers Sarah Butler, left, and Melissa Jones for the work and vouchers for fencing materials that Blaze Aid has given him to replace burnt fencing. Picture: Christine Ansorge

Blaze Aid has so far received more than $200,000 in donations towards its $1 million target to help south-west farmers hit by the St Patrick’s Day fires.

Blaze Aid president Kevin Butler said the public’s generosity had been “incredible” and the $200,000 had been raised in three weeks.

Mr Butler said Blaze Aid distributed $31,200 last week through its Post and Wire program that helped farmers replace burnt fencing and other assets destroyed by the fires.

Farmers use the vouchers to buy materials at rural merchandise and hardware stores. Each farmer receives vouchers for between $500-$2000 worth of materials, Mr Butler said.

He said another $50,000 in vouchers were due to be distributed next week and further voucher distribution rounds would be held over the next several months.

Among those to receive vouchers was Elingamite dairy farmer Tim Howard who said his would go towards replacing the three kilometres of fencing he lost when 131 hectares (323 acres) on his two properties were burnt in the fires.

Donations are also used to help fund the volunteer camps that Blaze Aid is running at Cobden, Terang and Macarthur.

The camps, which supply volunteers with three meals a day, are expected to run for several months with each camp costing about $2000 a week to operate. 

Mr Butler said he expected Blaze Aid would reach its donation target of $1 million for the south-west fires but it might take several months.

Mr Butler said the public’s excellent generosity made him more determined that the money be distributed to as many farmers affected by the fires as possible.

He was concerned that only 119 farmers had so far registered to receive help from Blaze Aid when he had been told 260 properties had been affected.

He urged fire-affected farmers to register with Blaze Aid to receive vouchers through its Post and Wire program even if they were not receiving volunteer help from Blaze Aid.

He said some dairy farmers were in tight financial situations and, without the vouchers, could not afford to buy materials to replace assets destroyed by the fires.

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