Two months on from devastating fires in the Esperance region, the town is beginning to recover. Many people have experienced property damage, and four lives were tragically lost. Recovery efforts have been difficult however, due to another fire which spread along approximately 50km of the coast in early January, burning at the same time as serious fires in the south west.
While no serious damage was reported after the second fire, firefighters and volunteers were under extreme pressure as resources were spread across the state. Fear and uncertainty also took over as smoke was once again hovering through the town, with many locals on high alert.
Rev Robert Dummermuth, minister at Esperance and Condingup Uniting Churches, is working tirelessly to help support the local community. As a volunteer with the SES, Robert as on the frontline while the fires were burning. Now as the recovery process begins, he is providing pastoral support and community building opportunities for the local people.
Robert’s placement in Esperance has been extended for six months thanks to a grant from the Uniting Church WA Disaster Relief Fund.
The local WA Farmer’s Federation began organising a Christmas party in December and invited community groups to get involved. Around 400 people turned up for a BBQ, including activities and treats for the whole family, all free of charge. Using funds provided from the Uniting Church WA Disaster Relief Fund, Esperance Uniting Church were able to contribute.
“We organised children’s activities; jumping castle, slushy machine. We cooked our donuts up there and sent all the kids home on a sugar high,” Robert joked.
The congregation hopes to create more opportunities for these kinds of events, which are vital for raising spirits and keeping the community strong. Pamper packs will also help locals who are doing it tough financially. People affected have lost crops, sheds and machinery, which has placed pressure on their livelihoods.
While Esperance is beginning their recovery process, Robert also raised concern for others affected by fires around the state.
“Just keep praying for all those with fires,” he said. “It’s been a horrendous season so far and it hasn’t finished yet.”
Donate to the Uniting Church WA Disaster Relief Fund at any Westpac Branch, BSB: 036 001 Account: 921789. Account name: Uniting Church Investment Fund. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the details of your donation.
Alternatively, send cheques or money orders to: The Disaster Relief Fund Uniting Church in Australia GPO Box M952 Perth WA 6843. Attention: Gillian Dudley/Lyn Boorn.