8 years after Pinery Fire, Mallala locals still working towards a safer Community
Eight years on from the horrific Pinery Fire, which tore through towns, destroyed homes and claimed lives, in a 250 square kilometre trail of destruction, dedicated volunteers from the Mallala community are still working hard to ensure the district never has to face the same challenges again.
With the trauma still etched in their minds, and the landscape still scarred with reminders, Mallala and Districts Lions Club has opened a purpose-built Emergency Relief and Command Centre, as another hot and dry season begins.
Believed to be the only one of its kind in regional South Australia, the Command Centre has been designed to support emergency services in a major event, and is equipped with an impressive commercial kitchen, meeting room, two big screen TV’s for news and emergency services programming, a communication room, bathroom, heating, cooling and internet – all powered by a 8KVA generator at the flick of a switch.
“It’s important that lessons were learnt from Pinery,” said Mallala and Districts Lions secretary, Brenton Bell.
“The Lions Club has always been active in disaster response, and after Pinery we decided that a strategic approach to community infrastructure could provide better respite facilities in the event of a disaster.
“Whether it’s a major vehicle accident, fire or other emergency, the Adelaide Plains and surrounding regions can now access this facility. Any emergency services organisation can walk in, set up and be ready to go.”
But that’s not the only way this dedicated group of volunteers is ready to help in a time of need. Next door to the new Command Centre, which is located on the grounds of the town oval, the Lions have facilitated the Mallala Campground – complete with more than 30 sites for caravans, tents or RV’s, an ablution block, laundry and an emergency relief shed, which can house up to 30 people on stretchers in the case of a major emergency.
“These facilities also give us more opportunity to provide relief accommodation in the event of housing losses. What we saw after Pinery were families in need of a quick accommodation solution,” Brenton said.
“If we put a call out to the region for caravans, this solves the problem of people moving out of the area until their homes are rebuilt or repaired, their children don’t have to change schools, they don’t have a long commute to work, and they stay connected to their friends, families and social networks. It also keeps people spending locally, so businesses aren’t suffering a double whammy from loss of trade due to the immediate disaster and then loss of customers because people are forced to move away.”
It seems looking after one another is all part of the service for Mallala volunteers. During the Pinery fire, they assisted fire crews and volunteers with their Emergency Relief Trailer, which is equipped with BBQ’s, water and wash facilities, microwave, gas burner, two way radios, tables and chairs, and a generator.
“The night of the fire we fed 600 people and we kept lunch and tea up to firefighters for two weeks after that.”
Mallala Lions donate a huge contribution of volunteer hours to the community, and when they’re not helping out in a crisis, they are working hard to fundraise for important projects like the Emergency Relief and Command Centre. To help put cash back into the community, the club’s volunteers run a catering van and are a major part of the running of events and infrastructure at the Mallala Race Track. The Mallala camp ground is also a Lions-run facility and a camp ground at Port Parham was also facilitated by the group, with income from both parks allowing the Lions to financially support the community where they can.
Mallala’s Emergency Command Centre will host two meetings in 2024, as part of Northern and Yorke Region’s Community Disaster Preparation plan.