Gerringong thanks RFS

BIG THANKS: Zara Davies hands over a donation of more that $1000 to Gerringong RFS brigade Captain Andrew Downes on Monday, March 2.
BIG THANKS: Zara Davies hands over a donation of more that $1000 to Gerringong RFS brigade Captain Andrew Downes on Monday, March 2.

After a chaotic summer fighting bushfires up and down the coast, Gerringong RFS members have been flooded with support from the community.

Brigade captain Andrew Downes said although volunteers "didn't do it for the thanks" the well-wishes and donations from the community were much appreciated.

In a normal year, the Gerringong RFS would attend four or five bushfires. This season, the work was constant, in addition to calls for help around town - about 170 in 2019.

"This summer was definitely something I've never experienced before," he said.

"We were going down to Batemans Bay, about an hour and a half south, to fight the fire. A few weeks later we were travelling north-west to fight the same fire."

Mr Downes said there were some experiences he was happy to put behind him.

"In Balmoral, we were defending a house when all of a sudden there were 30-metre flames everywhere," he said.

"We dropped everything and got in the truck - we didn't have time to turn the hose off, the fire was too intense."

The crew survived the blaze, but the truck was badly burnt.

Barbara Devine, owner of Blue Espresso cafe, said many customers had said they felt "helpless" in the face of the disaster. She decided to set up a donation box.

"The response was incredible," she said.

"Customers just kept throwing $10, $20 and $50 notes in the box, and all their small change - we raised over $1000."

Mr Downes said the money - which was donated directly to the Gerringong RFS - would go towards much-needed station upgrades.

"The RFS is funded by the government, but donations allow us to buy above and beyond," he said.

"We've had a big influx of members after the fires, but the station doesn't have much space to get changed, especially if you're female. We take all our gear home to wash, which isn't good either.

"We're hoping we can afford to rework the space a little bit, install change rooms and a laundry."