What You Can Do To Help The RFS And Fire-Destroyed Communities
After a devastating weekend of bushfires, here are a few of the most effective ways you can help out affected families and emergency services who are fighting the blazes.
About 1000 homes have been lost across the country since the start of the fire season, with the damage assessment ongoing as the fires continue to rage.
Local charities and community groups have stepped up their tireless work to help provide for the firefighters battling to save their towns and for the members of the public who have been affected, and social media is bursting with ideas of how to help.
But some charities are now asking for donations to be more targeted, as fire stations and community halls pile up with clothes, canned goods and bottled water.
One such organisation, Our Community Pantry, is usually a not-for-profit that rescues food destined for landfill and sells it at affordable prices for members in the small town of Bargo.
The small nearby town of Balmoral is one of many that have been devastated by the Green Wattle Creek Fire, with Premier Gladys Berejiklian saying "there isn't much left" of Balmoral after a blaze swept through the area.
Paula, founder of Our Community Pantry, said the organisation has gone from serving 3,800 people to providing supplies to firefighters and the entire community.
"We have gone from how to get out to the firies, to donations of furniture and white goods, to feeding the firies and emergency services at the change over of shifts," she told 10 daily.
Since the fires tore through the area over the weekend, Paula has been meeting with those at evacuation centres to find out what it is they need the most.
Some of the small villages in the area remain completely cut-off, but Paula was allowed a police escort into some of them to meet with the locals to provide assistance and find out what they may need.
"It was the most emotional thing to meet with these people," she said.
Paula said in the face of such a massive disaster, it was important to control the donations coming in, so they could be more effective in helping families rebuilding their lives.
"I am getting details, such as how many children, what size clothes they need," Paula said.
"I have a list of list questions of things they are not thinking about yet."
While the generosity of the public has been overwhelming, Paula said too many donations can be a problem.
"We have plenty of food and drinks, and at this point we are backloading and it's creating a hazard being stored," Paula said.
One kind person asked to donate a car, but Paula pointed out that despite their best intentions, this kind of donation would create more work at this point in time.
"We need these things but not immediately," she said.
Many Rural Fire Service brigades have also been overwhelmed with donations, an RFS spokesperson told 10 daily.
"The response from the public has just been amazing, it's incredible," they said.
And while the support is greatly appreciated, the spokesperson said they would prefer donations of cash, as storing physical goods can pose a safety concern as they pile up.
"Please consider donating financially, but if you want to donate physical supplies, contact your local brigade and see what they need," the spokesperson said.
Paula said Our Community Pantry would appreciate donations of Manchester items, such as pillows and blankets to donate to local brigades.
"I was doing a delivery at 1am, and saw the firies sleeping in their trucks and on the nature strip using their helmets as a pillow," she said.
"My goal is to help our local stations get stretches or blow up bed, and have Manchester items for when they come back from a shift."
The RFS said while those items would not be able to be taken out on jobs, they could be used at stations.
Firefighters work in 12-hour shifts, with a day off in between, and may be able to use them for a small reprieve if time permits on a shift, the spokesperson said.
For those wanting to donate to those who have been affected by the fires, Paula advised contacting local charities to ask what they need.
"If you could provide a list of what you can donate, it is easier to organise," she said.
"That way we can match it up with demographics and families that need it."
RSPCA NSW is also running a bushfire donation drive to help fund inspectors in fire-affected areas and assist animals in need. You can find the donation page here.
You can donate to your local NSW brigade here.
Our Community Pantry can be found here.