LION-HEARTED: Ballina and East Ballina Lions clubs collected donations at Ballina Fair yesterday. Pictured (from left) are Joyce Emmett, Dawn and Bob Sword, Des Emmett, Joan Smedley of Mid Richmond Lions, Bob Morgan and Barry Haines; (front row) Jim Meldrum, John Harding and Frank Anderson.
LION-HEARTED: Ballina and East Ballina Lions clubs collected donations at Ballina Fair yesterday. Pictured (from left) are Joyce Emmett, Dawn and Bob Sword, Des Emmett, Joan Smedley of Mid Richmond Lions, Bob Morgan and Barry Haines; (front row) Jim Meldrum, John Harding and Frank Anderson. Doug Eaton

Northern Rivers comes to aid of bushfire victims

NOEL REDDEN has saved many homes in 19 years as a volunteer firefighter, but he could not extinguish the flames that engulfed and destroyed his sister's home 1500 kilometres away at Bendigo, in central Victoria.

The Wadeville man and his wife, Elizabeth, are among the 55 Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service volunteers packed and ready to go at a moment's notice should the call come that they're needed down south.

The fact his sister, Carol Redden, and her three children were robbed of their home by the horrific fires that may have killed 300 people gives him special cause to serve.

“She basically walked away with the clothes on her back,” Mr Redden, who was born and bred in Bendigo, said. “I think she's still a bit shell-shocked.”

Carol Redden had been watering down her garden and walls as a precaution when Victorian Country Fire Authority officers appeared at her gate advising her to abandon the heritage home.

“They got very little warning at all. They knew that there was smoke around, they knew that there was fire in the vicinity,” Mr Redden said.

The family fled to her parent's home a few kilometres away from the path of the approaching fire. When they returned the next day, a few brick walls were all that remained.

“The house my grandfather was born in has probably been destroyed as well,” Mr Redden, who moved to the Northern Rivers two decades ago, said.

As the death toll from Australia's worst natural disaster continued to mount yesterday, he was preparing to fly into the fire zone if needed.

“I've helped save a lot of houses, but I couldn't do much for my sister,” he said. “My wife and I volunteered straight away.”

Three Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service volunteers have already been sent to help with aviation support for NSW firefighters battling blazes in the Hunter region, north-west of Sydney.

Another 55 are on standby should they be needed in Victoria for five-day stints.

“Our service is collecting a list for the region. We're on a moment's notice,” Northern Rivers RFS manager Michael Brett said. “We'll just sit by and wait.”



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