While Blaze Aid has so far erected hundreds of kilometres of fencing on south-west properties burnt out in the St Patrick’s Day fires, Cobden camp coordinator Christine Male says hundreds more kilometres still needs to be done.
Mrs Male said Blaze Aid’s work in the south-west was far from finished and she expected the Cobden camp would continue to operate at least until September.
The number of volunteers at the Cobden camp has reduced since it began in late March, but Mrs Male said she still had 20 out in the field this week during what was challenging weather.
“I am astounded at how volunteer numbers are holding up in this weather,” she said.
Mrs Male, of Traralgon in Gippsland, said most of the volunteers were grey nomads but about half a dozen of them were from the south-west.
She has run about five Blaze Aid camps and said she had never encountered as much local support as she had at Cobden.
One of the locals was a dairy farmer who milked his cows in the morning, did re-fencing work with Blaze Aid before returning to milk his cows in the afternoon.
She hoped more locals would help out during the remaining months.
Mrs Male said the Cobden camp was well resourced with fencing equipment and “we never turn volunteers away”.
Among the locals helping out is Ken Farquharson, 79, of South Ecklin, who is the camp’s ‘gopher’ and liaison with the Cobden community.
Mrs Male said Mr Farquharson was invaluable with his knowledge of the local farming and wider Cobden community.
He said fire-affected farmers had realised about a month ago the true impact of the fires and were coming to terms with the realisation the recovery would take a long time.
Blaze Aid is also operating another camp at Terang but closed its Macarthur camp on May 20.
Macarthur camp coordinator Barry Thompson, of Mount Gambier, said it had finished what it could do to help farmers recover from the St Patrick’s Day fires in Macarthur and surrounding areas.
The camp operated for eight weeks with 118 volunteers contributing 774 combined work days to clear 84 kilometres of burnt fencing and build 98 kms of new fences.
Volunteers at the Macarthur camp worked on fire-affected properties from Gazette, west of Penshurst, to near Hawkesdale, many of which were sheep properties that did not have the smaller paddocks and closer fencing systems destroyed on many of the dairy farms hit by the St Patrick’s Day fires near Terang, Garvoc and Camperdown.