RURAL towns are often in the front line of bushfires.
This summer Redesdale has had more call-outs than most.
The little town of 300, encircled by tinder-dry grass and bush, has been menaced by fire no fewer than 31 times since Christmas.
But just one house was lost – and no lives.
It has been a plucky core of 10 or so Redesdale volunteers, with two red trucks and one ute, who have leapt to save houses, livestock, properties and potentially, lives.
Redesdale firefighter of 18 years Paul Atkins says it is the busiest year they had ever had.
For the first time, residents of 17 years Owen and Gay Shannon, who live across the road from the station, have had their car packed ready to evacuate.
They know others who also had their cars packed all summer.
“It’s been such a sustained, savage hot spell this year,” Mrs Shannon said.
Two fires on Old Ford Road on February 1 and 4 rattled both firefighters and residents.
When the siren went for the 1 February fire about 9.30pm, CFA communications volunteer Carolyn Boyd, was at their property on Old Ford Road with her 12-year-old son trying to pack the car and their cats.
On the phone to her husband Jim, a volunteer firefighter, she said: ‘it’s here and it’s big.’
“Luckily there was not much wind… it was just slowly creeping up the hill,” she said.
By 11pm the fire was out and had burnt only a couple of hectares.
But it flared up again a few days later on February 4 and turned into one of the town’s worst this summer.
Forty-seven fire trucks from Redesdale and other brigades from as far as Kilmore and Maryborough raced to the second fire on Old Ford Road, which ended up burning 193 hectares.
Only the southerly wind direction stopped that fire running into town and burning houses and the primary school, Mr Atkins said.
“If the wind had been a northerly we would have been in trouble.”
That night 200 people sheltered at Redesdale hall, including 54 firefighters.
The Shannons also help the CFA. When the fire siren goes, they walk across the road and open the station garage doors, fill Eskies with drinking water for volunteers and mark on the white board who has turned up to fight.
“It’s great support…it helps save us a few minutes,” said Mrs Boyd.
Mr Shannon calls the Redesdale CFA “yellow angels”.
“If there was no fire brigade here, we would have lost the town,” he said.
“They have worked to the point of exhaustion and beyond.
They have worked to the point of exhaustion and beyond.
“They give up their time, leave their families and their farms and risk their lives.”