When disaster strikes, it’s local journalists who keep everyone informed, and not just here but around the world.
Volunteer firefighters from the NSW Rural Fire Service and Fire and Rescue NSW members have been inundated with praise on the South Coast Register website for their efforts over the past week battling the South Coast bushfires.
Rightfully so - both organisations along with representatives of many other groups like National Parks and Wildlife have been working long hours to contain fires at Bomaderry, Ulladulla and Bega.
We already know the power of the press – particularly in this modern world of social media.
But if you needed any further evidence, see the South Coast Register’s coverage of the West Cambewarra Road North Nowra fire as it impacted on Bomaderry last Wednesday.
At the height of the emergency almost 1000 people tuned in as the Register broadcast live on Facebook.
The initial coverage from Rob Crawford and Damian McGill attracted 140 reactions, more than 2000 comments, 3200 shares and 253,000 views.
And it wasn’t just locals who were tuned in.
Former Shoalhaven man Danny Regan, who now lives “10,000 miles away” in the United States, said it was hard to watch so far from home but through the coverage was able to keep relatives in West Cambewarra informed.
“I was updating my sister in Cambe and another friend in West Cambewarra,” he posted.
Well-known local Adam Straney who was also away from the Shoalhaven and watching from Perth, and inquired about the situation and evacuations.
Jenny Matthews posted from Bali airport saying she was “watching and very worried for family and friends.”
There was also plenty of support and words of thanks for the many firefighters who fought the blaze and other emergency services who were also on the scene.
There were comparisons to the horrific Shoalhaven fires in the early 2000s, last year’s West Nowra blazes and even to the current situation in California.
Many expressed concerns at how severe the fires were, considering it was still winter and not in the height of the summer fire season.
It brought out the best in humanity. Local residents searching for safe places to evacuate pets to were met with offers from random members of the public. Rather than fleeing the scene, staff from the Caltex service station in Bomaderry produced slabs of bottled water for nearby residents. One woman from Ulladulla who was stopped at Nowra offered weary firefighters a tray of coffee.
The Register coverage continued throughout the afternoon with Courtney Ward and Hayley Warden also heading out into the emergency, keeping our readers and viewers up to date. Back in the office Rebecca Fist did a massive job coordinating our coverage, keeping everyone up to date with website, Facebook and Twitter posts.
All up the live videos attracted more than 433,000 views on Wednesday.
The day after the blaze, West Nowra RFS deputy captain Terry Byrne told the Register his son had tuned in to the Facebook coverage from San Francisco and knew all about the the previous day’s goings on.
Followers extended their thanks for our coverage which was nice.
Jeffrey Higgins: Great Coverage South Coast Register, AMAZING work fire fighters.
Veronica Jane Tarling: Thanks for the wonderful information Rob absolutely awesome coverage.
Suze Wood: Thanks for the coverage Sth Coast Reg..i have heaps of family in Nowra Bomo area.. having your coverage has allayed my fears. HB..QLD..
And the coverage didn’t stop there - along with colleagues from the Milton Ulladulla Times it continued through Thursday and Friday and over the weekend as the Kingiman fire continued to raise major concerns.
There is no doubt the South Coast Register and Milton Ulladulla Times serve their respective local communities in times of disaster.
When emergencies unfold, we are there.
When national media outlets have all but forgotten about fire-affected areas, local media outlets are embedded in these towns, pushing for services residents need until they have rebuilt.