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Radio Amateurs Aid Animal Rescue Effort Following South Australian Bushfires


Members of Australia’s Wireless Institute Civil Emergency Network in South Australia (WICEN SA) have been assisting an emergency animal rescue and recovery organization in the wake of the so-called Sampson’s Flat bushfire in the sheep and cattle-ranching region of Adelaide Hills. The fire, which has burned uncontrolled since early January, has blackened some 31,000 acres of land and destroyed numerous houses and sheds, and at least four businesses, and killed some 120 animals. The bush and grass fires have pushed temperatures above 100° Fahrenheit, and the heat, coupled with winds greater than 55 MPH, has sent more than 20 people, including firefighters, to the hospital. One man remains in a serious condition after being hit by a falling tree.

WICEN President Nic McLean, VK5ZAT, reports that he has been at the One Tree Hill staging area to assist members of South Australia Veterinary Emergency Management (SAVEM)a response and recovery agency for animalsand to Department of Environment and Natural Resources workers. According to SAVEM, WICEN volunteers installed a seven-unit hand-held communication system, complete with a range-enhancing aluminum tower, at the SAVEM control center. SAVEM reports that its field teams have assessed koalas, kangaroos, horses and sheep. SAVEM said an emerging issue has been a lack of available animal feed — from hay bales to dog food — within the fire-affected areas.

McLean said WICEN works very closely with SAVEM, enabling the veterinary medical community to effectively respond to emergency incidents that involve companion animals, wildlife, and livestock. While SAVEM does not provide an evacuation service for pets and other animals, it does help any animals caught up in an emergency.

WICEN SA operates as a separate identity under the auspices of the Wireless Institute of Australia. Listed officially under the State Disaster Plan, WICEN provides radio communications and cooperates with the State Emergency Service, The Salvation Army and the Red Cross during disasters and emergencies. In 2013 WICEN and SAVEM concluded an aid agreement to support the group with communications. McLean says SAVEM, with its veterinarians and nurses, has been doing good work triaging, treating and, where necessary, euthanizing animals, as well as providing some emotional support to the farmers and animal owners.

A forecast of cooler weather should dampen the fire threat, but locals know they need to remain vigilant and prepared for the rest of summer. — Thanks to Jim Linton, VK3PC, Chairman, IARU Region 3 Disaster Communications Committee




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