May 24, 2018
In the line of fire
By: Emily Thorne

Sydney’s autumn heat saw bushfire tearing through more than 3800 hectares across southwestern Sydney back in April. Thankfully, local heroes Emily Thorne and her fellow Community Fire Unit (CFU) volunteers helped prepare and protect homes when the bushfire headed their way.

“We live in Picnic Point, which is surrounded by Sandy Point and Alfords Point. These areas are on the other side of a narrow neck of the Georges river. A lot of bush surrounds homes in these areas, but luckily the bushfires didn’t jump the river! We were under ember attack during the fires Saturday night and following Sunday,” she shares.

“The bushfire started on Saturday afternoon, April 14th. We were on watch through afternoon to evening, and as the fire got closer, our CFU unit activated at 10:37 p.m. Through the night, we were wetting down the gutters and roofs to protect the houses. We stayed active due to the high winds carrying burning embers and continued preparing and protecting the homes in our area until the following afternoon, April 15th at 5:30 p.m.”

Bushfire-prone land such as Picnic Point needs CFUs to protect homes. CFUs are groups of residents living in areas close to bushland. The Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) train and support these groups to help protect and prepare homes against bushfires. Emily explains CFUs’ year-round responsibilities, saying, “In preparation for possible bushfires, we inspect every property in our area of activity, checking the houses that have their fences lined up with bushfire-prone debris. We rake back the debris, and make sure each house has its own bushfire plan. We also educate the people in our area, letting them know how to safeguard their homes.”

When Emily’s husband registered interest in joining the Fixed Hose Post (FHP) unit in their street, they found out there were no active members. They then decided to revive the CFU, resulting in the retirement of the FHP and the delivery of new equipment for their community. Currently, MHP-002 Picnic Point—the CFU Emily and her husband are a part of—has six active members and one associate member. The group is looking at holding an awareness day, community barbecue and recruitment drive to increase the number of volunteers.

#MakingADifference as a CFU member
If you’re interested in becoming a CFU member and making a difference in your bushfire-prone community, you may apply online. You must complete the online training modules and pass the one-day practical training and assessment.

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