Australia – He’s Bushy the bushfire wallaby and his aim is to keep rural and remote children and their families safe from dangerous wildfires.
The new Queensland Rural Fire Service mascot has been unveiled in the state’s far north, ahead of a forecasted above-normal fire season.
Bushy is the brainchild of RFS volunteer Yvonne Thomson, who noticed fire safety tips given by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service’s mascot, Blazer the koala, did not work for country children, particularly those on remote cattle stations.
“Blazer helps out kids in the cities and towns and he’s able to get a red truck when they ring triple-zero so they’ll come and save them if they get out of the house and stay out of the house,” she said.
“Bushy’s job is to help kids and their parents in the country to prepare well before the fire season comes for the wildfires that really do destroy things.”
Neil Parker, the RFS acting regional manager for the Far North, said children in rural areas could not depend on phone communications in the event of a fire, so needed to learn a different set of skills than their city counterparts.
“The children also need to have a good plan to look after themselves and their family and their mates, so that involves helping mum and dad clean up around the house and the property.”
In all, 20 Bushy costumes will be distributed throughout Queensland Rural Fire regions over the coming months.
John Thomson, senior vice president of the Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland (RFBAQ), was the first to don the outfit.
He has been visiting students at School of Distance Education mini-school camps on Cape York and in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“They give me high four paws, because I’ve only got four paws, I haven’t got five fingers,” Mr Thomson laughed.
He reckons one of Bushy’s main purposes is to reinforce safety instructions country parents are already giving their children.
“I was a young fella once and what my father told me I didn’t believe, so we catch them young, train them young, and it will stay with them as they grow up,” Mr Thomson said.
Poem dedicated to Bushy
One student who has heard the message and is spreading it is 12-year-old Kurt Plant, who lives on St Ronan’s Station in a remote area between Mt Garnet and Mt Surprise.
Along with his three sisters, nine-year-old Anna, six-year-old Kelly and three-year-old Pippa, Kurt has written a poem about Bushy, which he recited to fellow students at the Mt Garnet mini-school.
“He teaches us bushfire skills we need to know and if there’s a bushfire, where we should go,” he said.
“Have the firefighter ute ready with water to flow in case there’s a fire and strong winds begin to blow.”
His sister Anna said the family’s bushfire preparedness came to the fore recently during an emergency on their cattle station.
“We had a big fire in a paddock of ours and it burnt down the whole paddock,” she said.
“We dealt with it by having heaps of water out where the fire was and putting fire breaks in.”
RFBAQ said once the program was rolled out statewide, it hopes to expand it nationally.