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Australian firefighters are still reeling from the Black Summer bushfires

Allan Haddad always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps and becoming a firefighter. But the 23-year-old from New South Wales had no idea the start of his career would be defined by one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons in living memory – the 2019-20 Black Summer blazes.

“I still remember I was at my aunty’s house. We were having a big family lunch, and a news thing came up – it was a catastrophic fire danger day, and it was starting to kick off in the Blue Mountains [National Park],” he told SBS News. So I rushed down there, and it was pretty much lights and sirens straight to the Blue Mountains, [through] all the smoke and flames and everything like that.


Allan Haddad, 23, says he’s only starting to appreciate how intense the Black Summer bushfire season was.

SBS News

Allan said there’s the usual,lly “one, two, or three bad days where it’s all hands on deck” every summer. But that was the first day of a three-month onslaught of non-stop commitment from Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service,” he said. That summer, Allan said he spent more time on the back of a fire truck than in his bed, volunteering for extra shifts whenever possible to help keep the community safe.

It was three months of carnage,” he said.

Mohammed Haddad, Allan’s father and a 25-year veteran of NSW Fire and Rescue, said he has never seen anything like the Black Summer fires and hopes he never will again. From June 2019 until May 2020, more than 18 million hectares of Australian land were ravaged, with fires breaking out in every state and territory. The fire season destroyed over 3,000 homes and killed 34 peopl, including nine firefighters- and countless animals. Rescue for 25 years.” src=”https://sl.sbs.com.au/public/image/file/eb614da9-44df-437c-9c45-551cd9417e27″ alt=” Mohammed Haddad has been a part of NSW Fire and Rescue for 25 years.” width=”700″ height=”394″ />

Mohammed Haddad has been a part of NSW Fire and Rescue for 25 years.

SBS News

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for me, and even being in the job for so long, it’s unforgettable,” Mohammed said. At the time, we were probably exhausted more than anything because it was just relentless – every day, 24/7, fires. We’d be off duty, and they’d be ringing us up to come in. And, as first responders, or in our case, firefighters, we never say no.”

‘Running on adrenaline.’

IOnlynow, some 18 months later, the pair are truly grappling with how intense the fire season was. “I don’t think even I fully appreciated what a season it was until now, looking back on it, for the pure fact you’re running on adrenaline,” Allan said. “You take it home, and you think about it because when people call us, they’re usually having a pretty bad day,” Mohammed said. One of the hardest parts of that season was witnessing the grief of those who had lost everything. They’ve lost their homes; they’ve lost their cattle.

Tany people have had a lifetime of memories; they’ve had a property they’ve built that’s passed on through generations, even simple things like photos [destroyed]. They’ve lost their crops, they’ve lost just day-to-day things that we all take for granted. That was the hardest thing,” he said.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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