FLAT OUT: A day after returning from Townsville, SES's Michael Bell was aiding in the firefighting efforts.
FLAT OUT: A day after returning from Townsville, SES's Michael Bell was aiding in the firefighting efforts. Contributed

Our SES volunteers brave fire and flood to lend a hand

THE past month was a whirlwind for our SES volunteers with their dedication to serving the community pushed to extreme new heights.

Whether searching for forensic evidence, scrubbing flood-damaged homes in far north Queensland or fighting fires on the New South Wales border, they have travelled the state to lend a hand.

Michael Bell is the Stanthorpe Area Controller and said he was proud of his team's achievements over this trying period.

It started on February 2 when four Southern Downs volunteers, including Mr Bell, were called to Toowoomba to help in a police search.

Forensic officers needed to scour a section of rugged bushland for evidence.

"It was on the edge of an escarpment and we used ropes to repel down and assist police with the search,” Mr Bell said.

While in Toowoomba, a call came down from Townsville.

Homes and businesses were inundated with floodwaters and a statewide strike team was called to help.

Mr Bell joined volunteers from Warwick, Gatton, Laidley and Toowoomba as they travelled north.

"There are people up there with no insurance and we assisted with getting stuff out of their homes, cleaning properties and disinfecting rooms,” he said.

"It was pretty grubby stuff - very hot and humid - and some of the places were sitting in two metres worth of water for two weeks.

"I think I lost about 5kg.”

It was hard work but very much appreciated by the Townsville residents.

"While we were only playing a small part in the community it was quite significant because that was their time of need,” Mr Bell said.

Often furniture would crumble in Mr Bell's hands as he picked it up.

"We had members on their hands and knees scrubbing dirt off the floor so people could get back into their home,” Mr Bells said.

As they cleaned and scrubbed in Townsville a fire-storm brewed in Girraween National Park.

A third call came through and Mr Bell was summoned back to the Southern Downs on February 15 and put to work with the firefighting effort.

For the past six days a team of SES volunteers was stationed at the Wallangarra aerodrome re-filling water bombers.

Every 15 minutes a plane would land and Mr Bell's team would jump into action.

They connected water hoses to the bellies of planes idling on the runway.

"Once you put water through those hoses they have some significant weight and you are trying to do it safely, but also efficiently,” Mr Bell said.

In a severe fire situation every second counts and Mr Bell's team hard-working aimed to have each plane refilled in four minutes.

The fire is now under control and the SES volunteers have some time to rest and return to their day jobs.

But tropical cyclone Oma is bearing down on southeast Queensland so the next disaster could strike at any time.

Despite the big month, Mr Bell said his team would be ready to help.

"I would ask people to remain vigilant, take time to clean up your property and if you have storm damage call the SES on 132500.

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