Helping hand for fire victims

IN her 19 years with charity service St Vincent de Paul, Valmay Burns has not seen anything like the Cobraball bushfires.

The Yeppoon multi-centre co-ordinator has seen first-hand the devastating impact on those who have lost everything but the shirts on their backs.

“We had one gentleman who came in, he’d lost his house, his boat, his everything,” Ms Burns said.

“But him and his dog were able to walk away.

“And all he wanted was a pillow and a blanket to see him and his mate through, until they could get home and just see exactly what was left at home.

“A couple of other people who came in told us they’d lost everything, they’ve lost their homes.

“Others have said that their homes have been spared, but their machinery sheds and their machinery, and stuff like that, have been lost.

“A lot of them are very distraught and a lot of the children involved are very distraught because they’ve not only seen their homes go up in flames, but also not knowing if their beloved pets are okay is another heartache these families are going through.”

Ms Burns said a common theme among the bushfire victims who’d sought assistance, even those who’d lost everything, was they didn’t ask for much.

“They don’t want to ask for too much.

“They just want enough to see them through.”

Ms Burns said after getting notification last Sunday morning that residents had been evacuated from the Cobraball area, the Yeppoon St Vincent de Paul store and volunteers swung into action to help.

“We manned the shop for a few hours on Sunday if the evacuees needed clothing and toiletries, that sort of stuff.

“Actually on Saturday night our conference president came down and cleared out all of our mattresses, beds and blankets and everything that we had in the store here and took it up to the evacuation centre.

“The people who came into the store on Sunday only walked out (evacuated) with the clothes on their back.

“Some of the ladies who came in only had their nighties on that they’d been evacuated in, so we were able to supply them with clothing and shoes and any toiletries they needed.”

Ms Burns said every morning people were coming to the store from the evacuation centre seeking help.

“Some of them had been in the same clothes for four days.”

Ms Burns said the doors at St Vincent de Paul were always open for those who needed help.

“People can come to our store in John Street and we’re happy to assist them with whatever they need to get over the line.”

Ms Burns said on Tuesday the store had 15 volunteers on hand to help people and that help would be ongoing.

“Over the next couple of weeks it’s going to be a ricochet effect, and that’s when we will see the effects in the community.

“That’s when people will start to put up their hands and say we need furniture, we need electrical items.

“It’s going to be a long-term thing, and the worst part about it, is Christmas is just knocking on our door.”