Bowlers roll for fire victims

VICTIMS of devastating fires that swept through south-western Victoria early this year are being supported by district people, in both a practical and financial sense.

Fires that started on March 17 - dubbed the St Patrick's Day fires - destroyed 26 homes, 50 sheds, millions of dollars of stock and many kilometres of farm fences.

SUPPORT. Ron Harbridge has led the local campaign to help south-western Victorian fire victims.

SUPPORT. Ron Harbridge has led the local campaign to help south-western Victorian fire victims.

Kerang Bowling Club president, Barry Theobald was overwhelmed by the sheer extent of the devastation when he recently joined Cohuna resident Ron Harbridge on a trip to Cobden to rebuild farm fences.

Mr Harbridge has been leading a local campaign to raise funds for fence posts.

The experience has motivated Mr Theobald to organise a fund-raising bowls tournament on July 1 at Kerang Bowling Club.

Mr Harbridge began collecting pine posts and other fencing materials through community donations earlier this year and has been taking volunteers to affected farms to assist farmers rebuilding after the fires.

So far he has sent 1000 posts and eight coils of wire and is currently organising for hay to be delivered to affected farmers.

Mr Theobald contacted Mr Harbridge after reading about his efforts.

"I rang him and asked him what he was doing. He told me he was organising a small convey to go down," he said.

Once Mr Theobald visited the affected areas he was astounded at the extent of the damage.

"I got a bit of a shock when I went down there and saw just what devastation had been done. Hundreds and hundreds of kilometres of fencing had been burnt, as well as pine plantations and houses … it's going to take those poor people years to get over it," he said.

"This dairy farmer put his hand on my shoulder and said 'you people coming down here is gold to us - knowing there are people who care.' I felt like crying, and you think what can you do?" he said.

The answer, decided Mr Theobald along with bowls board chairman, Ian Roberts was to hold a fund-raiser to help with the cost of transporting the materials to south-western Victoria. 

"I think there were four utes or trailers [driving down] and his wife in the car," he said.

"I said, 'Ron, you can't keep paying for this yourself'."

Mr Harbridge said that the cost of transporting materials was phenomenal. 

"Friday week ago we sent a load of 42 big squares of hay down. I've got another load of straw to get down there but I'm just organising trucks. It's $1600 a load one way just for transport," he said.

"It's just an awesome thing for him [Mr Theobald] to come up with that idea."

The charity bowls event will start at 12 noon on Sunday, July 1, and will include a raffle and a helmsman auction.

Teams or single entries are being accepted at $10 per player, and Mr Theobald said it doesn't matter if you've played before or not.

"It's only a fun day. The more we can make, the more we can help. After you see how some of these poor coots down there are suffering the more you realise we've got to try and help," he said.

Entries need to be in by June 28 and anyone wanting to take part can call Mr Theobald on 5450 3468 or 0429 388 961.

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