NATION

Sylvia On Front Lines Of Australian Bushfire Fight

On January 8, she was one of five volunteers from her branch who got the call to help fight the devastating East Gippsland fires.
20 Jan 2020 09:55
Sylvia On Front Lines Of Australian Bushfire Fight
Sylvia Chand (right) with fellow firefighters.

Fijian-born Sylvia Chand, a volunteer firefighter, has been in the centre of things since she joined the fight against the bushfire blazes taking place in Australia.

She has been heavily involved in fighting fires in East Gippsland in the Australian state of Victoria.

On January 8, she was one of five volunteers from her branch who got the call to help fight the devastating East Gippsland fires.

During her time in Orbost, one of many towns isolated by the devastating fires, her team had two main jobs, control back-burning to reduce the amount of fuel available, and tackling spot fires.

When she was fighting spot fires Sylvia was armed with a firehose and positioned on the back of a firetruck with another firefighter, as the truck travelled through the areas at risk of catching fire. She did this in an environment filled with falling trees, burning embers and smoke-filled winds.

Such is the motivation of this voluntary firefighter based at Keysborough in Victoria Australia. Just four days ago she was in the bush again.

Originally from Nadi, she is employed as a Quality Manager in Metro Trains’ Safety Environment and Risk Division.

Ms Chand left Fiji in 1989 when she was in high school as her family made the move to Australia.

“Where I was deployed to Orbost, our firefighter role was to help “backburn” parts of the vegetation to reduce the potential risk of fire spreading if it did reach Orbost,” she said.

“I personally was not deployed for the fires in NSW or Mallacoota, but what I gather from news and word of mouth is that they were devastating to land, air, wildlife and the community.”

Ms Chand said the bushfires had not reached Melbourne, but its impact was being felt on a daily basis. She said the air had become hard to breathe as a result of the fires.

“The impact of the fires has polluted the air quality in Melbourne as I work in the city,” she said.

“Last week we had a couple of ‘hazardous’ rated days of air quality and now some businesses are handing out masks to wear because the air can get bad some days in the city.”

Ms Chand said that while she did not always want to be a firefighter, she saw it as a way of giving it back to the community.

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj

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