Beach mission teams finish early amid new fire threat

With fire conditions expected to worsen on Saturday amid high temperatures and strong winds, some Scripture Union Family Mission (SUFM) teams on the NSW south coast are closing their activity programs early and will return home as soon as roads are open and it is safe to travel.

Glenn Coombs, Interim State Director of Scripture Union NSW, said the decision applied to all SUFM teams operating south of the Shoalhaven River and was made because of the potential for further road closures and interruptions to power and communications. Teams at Lake Conjola, Ulladulla, Burrill Lake, Lake Tabourie and Bawley Point have been without power and only limited communications.

He said beach mission volunteers were packing up and would return home on Friday, or earlier, where it was safe to do so. The length of beach missions varies, but they usually run until about January 5.

“We have been doing a lot of contacting of families on their behalf, and trying to care for them in that way.” – Simon Flinders

“SU NSW is taking this precaution to ensure the safety of our volunteers and avoid unnecessary use of already stretched services at this time,” he said in a Facebook post.

“We continue to pray for our communities, safety and emergency services workers and volunteers who are doing an amazing job.”

A spokesman for SU NSW, Simon Flinders, added that it had been an anxious time for the families of beach mission volunteers, who had been unable to contact them by mobile phone.

“That’s been one of the challenges of this time, so we have been doing a lot of contacting of families on their behalf, and trying to care for them in that way,” he said.

He said everyone was grateful to God that no one had been injured or harmed by the fires and the beach mission teams had been supported, particularly during the past 48 hours, by an emergency response team that had helped them work out what to do next.

On New Year’s Eve, Lake Conjola SUFM was evacuated from the caravan park due to the fire situation. The team followed its Bush Fire Survival Plan and RFS advice, and was able to return to the caravan park later. All are safe.

“All SUFM teams have Bush Fire Survival Plans to ensure the safety of our volunteers. Our Emergency Response Team is monitoring the bushfire situation closely and supporting our teams,” said Coombs.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, many summer teams spent New Year’s Day resting and re-energising as the bushfire threat eased. In East Gippsland, after a better night’s sleep, Mallacoota SUFM and Theos teams were again in action, finding ways to serve and engage children, young people and families who remain stuck with them in Mallacoota.

“Queenscliff SUFM have launched a second program at Port Lonsdale and Barwon Heads are sharing Good News with an enthusiastic group of new and returning participants,” SU Victoria said in its latest Facebook post.