The Rotary Club of Pinjarra hosted an open breakfast event at the new West Waroona Volunteer Fire Brigade premises on 7th January 2021. The event was in recognition of the fifth anniverary following the tragic and devestating Waroona-Yarloop Bushfire of January 2016.

The breakfast was attended by around 100 people who enjoyed a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and sausages cooked by members of the Rotary Club of Pinjarra. Many cups of tea and coffee were consumed as the community came together.

Rotary Pinjarra President Vince Costantino welcomed everyone, and thanked the West Waroona Volunteer Fire Brigade Fire Captain Greg Lewis and his committee for allowing the use of the Fire Station for the event. He also thanked the Fire Brigade Cadet volunteers, who assisted with the serving of breakfast. Vince also thanked Rotarian Miles Hewitt and his committee for organising the event so well. Looking around the venue, organisers were delighted that attendance numbers have exceeded all expectations.

The Waroona bushfire burnt 69,000 ha, destroyed more than 160 homes and caused two fatalities in Yarloop in January 2016. During the first two days of the fire, which hit both the towns of Waroona and Yarloop, there were four periods of extreme fire behaviour: two involving massive pyrocumulonimbus (bushfire thunderstorm clouds) and two major ember showers. Pyrocumulonimbus developed over the fire on the evening of 6 January and around midday on 7 January. Destructive ember showers occurred on two consecutive evenings: at Waroona on 6 January, and then Yarloop on 7 January. The Yarloop ember storm destroyed the town. 

President Vince observed that we have come together almost 5 years to the day that the lives of so many residents of this district were affected by the Yarloop Bushfire. At the time, when so many were so terribly affected by that event, it was comforting that the community pulled together, assisting one-another in any way that it was possible to do. Many not-for-profit organisations offered practical and financial assistance, including the Rotary Club of Pinjarra.
Rotary Clubs around Australia answered an appeal for donations requested by the Rotary Club of Pinjarra, and in the event, more than $500,000 was received and disbursed. These funds were applied to areas which were not being funded by other relief agencies, particularly toward emergency fodder for livestock, and toward the funding of mobile trauma counsellors through GP’S Down South. The later funding continued for 18 months to mid-2017.
The past year, 2020, has been referred to generally as a terrible time. However, positive things to have come from our experiences include that this community has further demonstrated its resilience when confronted by the challenges that life continues to throw at us all. Additionally, an indirect but welcome outcome following the fire has been the building of the West Waroona Volunteer Fire Station where we stand today. The Station was officially opened by Western Australian Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan last November.

The new facility was made possible with a $698,000 Government Emergency Services Levy contribution, a $95,000 contribution from the Shire of Waroona and $75,000 grant from Alcoa Australia. The land for the new fire shed was donated by local farmers Mick and Helen Muir who lost their hay shed and much of their machinery in the 2016 Waroona bushfire. Their home was thankfully saved. The new facility has two appliances bays, toilets, a wet room, training room, communications room, kitchen and outdoor patio area.

Waroona Shire President Milke Walmsey also addressed the gathering, acknowledging the support that was provided by groups such as the Rotary Club of Pinjarra at the time of the emergency. He noted that when volunteers turned up in the immediate aftermath of the fire disaster, assisting by clearing burned fencing and suchlike, it showed those people affected that there were people out there who cared. Their support was extremely welcome then, and the occasion presented today by this gathering provides an opportunity to acknowledge and thank all volunteers for their support.
It was very pleasing to observe so many community members enjoying this opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbours as illustrated by the photographs included in this story.