Almost 9000 chippies, sparkies and tradies of all types have joined a Facebook group helping fire-affected communities.
The Tradies for Fire Affected Communities group is another example of widespread generosity in response to the blazes that have burnt nearly 11 million hectares across the country.
Set up on January 2 with the humble expectation of reaching “50 or 60 people”, TFFAC now has thousands willing to invest their skills and time.
Help given by group members has so far ranged from delivering pallets of feed for fire-affected animals, to convincing a company to donate sprinkler systems they helped install.
Group founder Piers Smart told AAP he was nervous when he first shared it with his community, fearing no one would sign up.
“But then a very popular Instagram page shared my initiative and it blew up. Seeing more than 4000 tradies join was outstanding and really special.”
Smart, 31, had spent New Year’s Eve waiting on updates from his father, who had been caught up in a bushfire ravaging the northeast Victorian town of Corryong.
His dad was evacuated but the experience touched the Melbourne carpenter, who decided to use his trade skills to benefit bushfire victims through the reach of social media.
Mr Smart created the group before going to bed and shared a post.
“For anyone that’s keen to help out, I’ve just started a little group. For any tradie out there that can offer their time, please join,” it read.
Three days later the group had already attracted almost 5000 members.
“I am still managing the group but there’s a few people helping me out. Friends of mine but also people from different professional backgrounds volunteering their time to roll this out effectively,” Mr Smart said.
“We all have full-time jobs and do this in our free time.”
Mr Smart said they try to send tradies only when they will not interfere with emergency services work.
“We don’t want to be cowboys and get into people’s ways or put our tradies in danger,” he said.
The group has now started a website which aims to provide long-term help.
The plan is to continue operating as a meeting point for those seeking fire relief, while calling on businesses to lend their support to rebuilding communities.
“There’s going to be work to do for months, if not years,” Mr Smart said.
“We want to be out there for the long term, not only while it’s on the news and everyone is thinking about it.”
© AAP 2020