Community spirit burns bright in Warrandyte
by COREY BLACKWELL
15th October 2018
WARRANDYTE’s locals have once again demonstrated this community’s generous spirit and dedication to giving back, as tickets for the 2018 Mayoral Fireball have sold out, ahead of the celebration later this month.
Manningham Council Mayor Cr Andrew Conlon has been overwhelmed by the community support for this year’s event, which will honour the selfless work of the CFA’s
“Warrandyte is a really great community and they always unite around events like this” Cr Conlon said.
“There’s been so much support, it’s been great.”
As a cause close to his heart, Cr Conlon selected Fireball as his chosen charity for the 2018 Mayoral Fireball, after almost losing his family home in a devastating bushfire in 2014.
On February 9, 2014 a bushfire sparked by high-voltage powerlines blazed through parts of Warrandyte, destroying the homes of some of Cr Conlon’s neighbours.
“A huge fireball literally came over the hill,” he said.
“Ours was the first house hit by that fire.”
Cr Conlon said his son was home alone when the fire began to burn through the neighbourhood.
“He heard this noise and turned around to see the whole ridge was on fire,” he said.
“In a panic, he ran up the driveway in bare feet, which we think may have also been on fire.
“He rang us and said, ‘Dad, I’m not sure but I think the house might have burned down’.”
Fortunately, the CFA arrived just in time to contain the blaze before it could spread.
“If it wasn’t for the CFA being there, that fire would’ve taken off,” he said.
“That could’ve been catastrophic for a number of people.”
Following the fire, Cr Conlon and his family were left to pick up the pieces.
“That took us a long time to get over,” he said.
However, Cr Conlon refused to sit back and wait, and was able to turn the tragedy into an opportunity to make a difference in the local community.
“I thought more could be done in terms of collaboration and making sure the risk is reduced and people know what to do in a bushfire situation,” he said.
“That’s why I ran for council.”
Four years on and Cr Conlon is hard at work with the Fireball Committee to organise this year’s event, which he hopes will show the CFA’s volunteers just how much the community values
“They don’t do it for the appreciation, but it’s really great when they are acknowledged for what they do.”
This year’s event will aim to raise enough funds to purchase a Forward Control Vehicle for the South Warrandyte Brigade.
“It’s basically not asking the volunteers to spend time fundraising, when they already give away a lot of their time to train and then put their lives on the line when there is a fire,” Cr Conlon said.
Cr Conlon said he also hopes the event will help spread the important messages of the CFA.
“It’s also about raising awareness for the need for other elements of fire safety such as fire plans, and the need for new volunteers” he said.
“It would be great if we could achieve that.”
Warrandyte’s residents have always shown an enthusiastic willingness to support those who continue to risk their lives to help others, which Cr Conlon attributes to their strong sense of community.
Community spirit burns bright in Warrandyte Our CFA Captains are grateful for the support of Fireball in preparation for the dry season ahead.
“There is a sense of unity when you go to an event like this,” he said.
“Everyone is supporting the same cause.
“We’re a very unique community.”
Locals are also eager to show their appreciation, because they know how important the work of the CFA is to the community.
“Everyone living here understands some of the risks,” he said.
“We live in this beautiful environment with trees everywhere,
but that comes with a higher risk in terms of bushfires.”
For the Firies themselves, the community support provided through
Fireball has not gone unnoticed, and continues to have positive impacts upon their experiences as volunteers.
Wonga Park Captain Aaron Farr said the work of Fireball has provided valuable relief from the stress of fundraising.
“By donating to Fireball or supporting us in one way or another, it means we’ve got more time to allocate to emergencies, training and community safety,” Aaron said.
“We can focus on what we do best.” South Warrandyte Community
Safety Officer Bree Cross said Fireball was also crucial to spreading important
“Although you don’t think of Fireball from an educational perspective, there’s still a lot of education provided through it,” Bree said.
“Now, there is more transparency in what we do, and why we do it.
“I can’t thank them enough really, it’s incredible.”
Chair of the Wonga Park Brigade, Damien Bale said he couldn’t put a value on the community’s effort in supporting Fireball.
“The philosophy is fantastic,” Damien said.
“Having the community effort spearheaded by Fireball, in terms of time and effort, it’s invaluable.”
Warrandyte Brigade’s first lieutenant Will Hodgson said he feels “very proud” to attend Fireball.
“These people are putting their hands in their pockets to support us as volunteers,” Will said.
“To see an event like that put together, where the community comes together, I see it as a celebration.”
Despite juggling family life, Will and his wife Bec, who serves as Warrandyte’s fifth lieutenant, are Fireball veterans, who are keen to make an appearance at this year’s event.
“It’s absolutely amazing, it’s such a great initiative,” Bec said.
“Something that I hope continues into the future and that the community continues to support.”
Cr Conlon also wished to thank the Fireball Committee for their ongoing vision, as well as the event’s many sponsors whose generosity has brought the event to life.
Although tickets have sold out, there are still opportunities for locals to show their support to the cause, such as the Fireball’s online auction.
The auction will begin on October 17 and close on the evening of the Fireball itself.
Those who register will be able to bid on about 100 items over the auction’s 10-day duration.
Go to www.fireball.org.au