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Generosity of spirit on show in bushfire crisis as Vinnies launches fire disaster appeal

Walking into fire: A lone firefighter walks into the flames to back burn the bushland while bushfires rage around Queensland and New South Wales.

“DISCIPLESHIP in action” is how a parish priest described the selfless contribution of Queenslanders who witnessed their homes surrounded by bush fires, yet took action to help their neighbours.

At Peregian Beach in Noosa District Parish, Fr Jason Middleton thanked local Catholics for their generosity of spirit assisting others, as fire raged around them.

“They took people into their homes, providing them a safe place to lay their heads, food and company in the midst of the turmoil,” he wrote in the parish newsletter.

“This is discipleship in action, and I am deeply proud of our selfless parishioners.”

Thousands of Peregian Beach residents were forced to evacuate and watch helplessly from a distance, as a firestorm threatened scores of homes.

At its peak, the Peregian inferno raged across a massive area of bushland close to suburban lots, a dozen houses were damaged, and yet only one home was destroyed – that of 89-year-old widow Pam Murphy.

Instead of despair, Mrs Murphy, an artist, found hope in some of the treasures that survived – paintings, antiques and family photos.

“It’s a terrible mess, but not as bad as I thought. I’ll save a lot of stuff,” she said.

Fr Middleton called for “continued prayerful support of all those who have been affected by the bush fires” and “all those emergency service personnel who have been fighting fires, assisting displaced and evacuated people and supporting those in greatest need.” 

“I think they (firefighters) are extraordinarily brave and selfless people who go in there to fight for people’s livelihoods and wellbeing – they put themselves on the line,” he said.

Vinnies launched a fire disaster appeal, urging people to dig deep as evacuated residents from dozens of south east Queensland communities returned home to rebuild and prepare for more scorching conditions.

Suburban residents, farmers and small business owners across the Scenic Rim and South Downs are among those in need. 

“We need the public to give what they can – these people are going through what can only be described as the toughest of times,” Vinnies state president Dennis Innes said.

“Every dollar given to Vinnies for this disaster appeal will go directly to people affected by these terrible events, with many of the fires caused by a drought affecting half of the state.”

Mr Innes said public donations help feed, clothe and provide immediate financial support for those who have been evacuated and displaced, as well as helping those who will be starting again after their homes and businesses were razed.

“Our volunteers and members are on the ground now helping people who have lost everything, as our emergency services battle more than 70 fires burning across the state,” Mr Innes said.

Vinnies has a strong track record of responding to Queenslanders impacted by disasters. 

“This is because Vinnies is the trusted charity people turn to during disasters. Vinnies will always be there for whatever Queensland faces, fire, flood or drought, and we always will be,” Mr Innes said.

Communities Minister Coralee O’Rourke also extended a hand of support, and commended the efforts of fire workers, volunteers and residents.

 Emergency hardship grants of $180 per person, up to $900 for a family of five or more are available through a jointly-funded Commonwealth/State-disaster relief funding.

Grants are available for eligible residents who suffered losses and damage and were uninsured.

“Queenslanders are resilient, and we will recover from these devastating fires,” Mrs O’Rourke said.

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