Refugees Volunteer to Quench Australia Fires

MELBOURNE – Paying back to their new chosen homes, a big number of refugees have volunteered to help save communities from dangerous bushfires, in an area facing a shortage of fire-fighting volunteers.

“The hoses are very heavy. Especially when there’s water going down. For me – maybe not for the men. But for me it’s very heavy,” Aida Pahang, a refugee from Iran, told Al Jazeera on Sunday, March 27.

“But I like it. I like to save people. Even trees, even nature. I love it.”

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Pahang is one of the refugees who were allowed to stay in Australia, despite the latest’s decision to limit the number of refugees it accepted.

She resettled in the Noble Park suburb, near Melbourne which faces shortage of fire-fighting refugees.

“They helped us,” said Abbas Abdollahi, Aida’s husband.

“They accept us to be in Australia, so I should do something. I want to do something. It’s like paying back.”

The fire service has made an effort to recruit from ethnic minorities, particularly resettled refugees. Today, of the 52 volunteers based at Noble Park, half are from immigrant backgrounds.

“Five years ago, there weren’t enough volunteers to run even a training exercise … let alone enough to have enough people, reliably on call for when real fires broke out,” Terence Sandford of the Noble Park Fire Service said.

“We had about 12 members in the brigade and that’s really not enough for what we want to do in the community, so we really had to do something to change that around.”

The volunteers were praised as useful additions to the teams, given their diverse language skills.

“Quite often we have members responding who can speak other languages and can offer comfort and support for people in their times of needs,” Matthew Pond, who works for the Country Fire Authority of Victoria, said.