For many people, the effects of the bushfires that swept through parts of Australia last summer are still being felt, over a year later.
It is almost surreal to think that one year has passed since that unprecedented fire season, but there are some people that remember the summer of 2019/2020 as if it was just yesterday.
Volunteer firefighter Gareth Jamieson is one of those people, he helped fight the Green Wattle Creek fire that destroyed more than 275,000 hectares of land.
“Our helmets were melting, and some nights we just saw red as far as the eye could see,” Mr Jamieson recounts about the devastating fires.
Mr Jamieson fought the fire for more than 700 hours all up, often going days without sleeping at all.
“I recall days where I would go 36 plus hours without sleep. But, you would see other members of your brigade getting on the truck each day doing the same thing as you, and I just thought: ‘I’ve got to do this not only for the community, but the members in my brigade’.
“It was devastating to see people lose their livelihoods in the space of one night and wake up the next morning and people have no homes, no places to go back to. As a member of our brigade, you want to do all that you can to help, but unfortunately sometimes we couldn’t do enough.”
The Green Wattle Creek fire went on to destroy more than 30 homes just in Wollondilly, and while the volunteers fighting the blaze were equipped with the right skills and determination, it soon became clear that their facilities were not up to scratch.
Thankfully, the community and its fire brigade were not left out on their own.
As part of its Bushfire Recovery Grants program, Commonwealth Bank donated over $53,000 to the Picton Rural Fire Service to help carry out upgrades to the station.
Mr Jamieson says that the funds had helped the fire service build a station that best serves the community and is now better fit for purpose.
“What I know is Picton Rural Fire Brigade is now ready to be on the front line again if and whenever we need to be.”
The donation is just one of the 213 Bushfire Recovery Grants provided to different organisations over 2020 by Commonwealth Bank.