Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Fire angels rally to help

A small army of volunteers has appeared to help farmers struggling to remove fences damaged in the Wunghnu Complex fire.

February 25, 2014 4:02am

Rochester Lions club volunteers roll up a fence damaged by the Wunghnu complex fire.

A small army of volunteers has appeared to help farmers struggling to remove fences damaged in the Wunghnu Complex fire.

Service clubs, Scouts, individuals and even schools have offered landholders help to remove the remnants of hundreds of kilometres of fences which were destroyed or rendered useless in the fire that swept through 180 properties over more than 9000ha.

They have been put to work in the past week in a UDV co-ordinated program matching volunteers with farmers.

Co-ordinator Peter Cooper said he was not surprised at the community response.

‘‘I think people want to help if they can,’’ Mr Cooper said.

If he’s been short of anything, it has been farmers putting their hands up to ask for help.

And he’s had to remind zealous volunteers not to overdo it.

‘‘We want everyone to pace themselves so they’ll be fit enough to have a go on another day.

‘‘We’ve had plenty of 70-year-old-plus volunteers offering.’’

The groups have included service clubs, prisoners in the justice system, and a four-wheel drive club whose members want to provide support for up to six weeks.

The son of a landholder, Graeme Holmes, was working with four unemployed volunteers on his parents’ property near Numurkah last week.

‘‘They’ve done a really good job. It’s good see people having a go,’’ he said as they rolled up the remains of a boundary fence.

The group spontaneously gathered after one of them, Nick Ferrari, posted a call for help on Facebook.

Rex Johnson said he thought it was a good idea to get out and do some volunteer work. ‘‘You don’t know where it leads.’’

Meanwhile, ex-farmer Hedley Moon and three other Rochester Lions Club members were out at Drumanure cleaning up a fence line. They were joined by Shepparton East man Dave Cole who volunteered off his own bat.

‘‘If you ever come into strife you would like to have people help out,’’ Mr Cole said.

Farmer James Rovers said they had lost about 40km of fencing and it could have taken them a year to clear the fences without help.

‘‘We have to get ready for sowing, so it would have to wait until after that before we could even think about it.’’

The next challenge will be recruiting more experienced volunteers to help with the task of building new fences, which Mr Cooper expects to start after next week.

Under the program, landholders pay for the fencing materials and volunteers erect them.

Anyone who wants to help or who needs help can contact Mr Cooper on 0409995643.

More stories and pictures on pages 8 and 9.

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