Muswellbrook's Ian Ingle urges local residents to lend a helping hand after recent BlazeAid stint

MUSWELLBROOK'S Ian Ingle knew the bushfire situation was extremely bad throughout New South Wales.

But, even he was shocked when confronted by the destructive state of affairs first-hand during a stint with BlazeAid at the weekend.

The well-known local resident joined the volunteer-based organisation, which works with families and individuals in rural Australia after natural disasters such as fires and floods, at Wingham on the Mid-North Coast.

There, the band of handy helpers - who have been in the region since November - spent the time rebuilding fences and other structures that had been damaged or destroyed.

"I was surprised by the devastation," Mr Ingle said.

"I saw houses burnt to the ground; it was pretty horrendous.

"While on one farmer's property, he told me he'd lost a forest plantation valued at $5 million.

"We cleared his land and erected approximately 800m of fences.

"But, he estimated the Blaze Aid assistance - using his gear - had saved him in the vicinity of $200,000.

"We also repaired internal and external fences to keep stock in, provided food hampers and supplied water to those in need.

"Many of the landowners just wanted to talk; it was sad to hear their stories.

"However, they really appreciated the help.

"And, it was important to lift their spirits after what they've been through."

The camp, based at the Wingham Showground, boasts 530 volunteers after 387 farms applied for aid.

BlazeAid, in return, has provided 2300 [volunteer] days so far, clearing about 40km of fencing and erecting 54km in its place.

Mr Ingle said it was an easy decision for him to lend a hand - and urged others to do likewise.

"I don't mind donating money, but you never know where it's actually going sometimes," he told the Chronicle.

"So, I felt I needed to do something [in person].

"BlazeAid is a great group; they organised everything well.

"They coordinated meals for the volunteers, too.

"From what I understand, they've served up about 5000, thanks to the assistance of local service clubs.

"I'd definitely do it again.

"It would be terrific if people from this area could volunteer for one day or more, if they had time to spare.

"It's very rewarding.

"BlazeAid doesn't just rebuild fences, it helps rebuild lives.

"The organisers reckon they still have six months' work ahead of them, even though the bushfires will be forgotten by then."

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