An annual community fun run established after the 2009 Victorian bushfires raises vital funds for Research and Kangaroo Ground volunteer fire brigades in the outer north east suburbs of Melbourne.
Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2019, ‘Run For The Firies‘ winds its way through Eltham and Diamond Creek’s parkland trails, across four events: a 10.6km run, 6km run, 4km run and a 4km walk.
It attracts thousands of community members each year, with money raised going toward equipment, building works and vehicles for both brigades. The event also helps raise awareness of volunteering with CFA as well as fire safety and prevention.
Kangaroo Ground Captain Glenn Law said the event started after the 2009 bushfires when members from both brigades were part of the same strike team.
“Immediately after Black Saturday members from both brigades realised that the Kinglake West Brigade was under tremendous pressure. Many of their members had been severely impacted by the fires and they were still receiving numerous calls to attend fires,” Glenn said.
“Our brigades decided to help out. We initially each provided a truck with crews on 12-hour shifts. Then we reduced that to one appliance with a joint crew on 12-hour shifts. This continued for several weeks.
“It was during this period that some members from both brigades decided we should do a joint fundraiser, and out of this ‘Run for the Firies’ was born.”
Glenn said participation in the first couple of years was mainly from locals who wanted to donate, however as the event grew it attracted more interest from serious runners.
“We hope that this year will be a record year for the event, in honour of the anniversary of the 2009 fires,” Glenn said.
“The day has a great vibe. Many of the runners say thank you for the work that we do, and it is a great way to work with the community.
“There are some amazing stories from participants about why they choose to enter – be it personal challenge, a special circumstance or because our local firefighters have impacted their life somehow.
“A couple of years ago recreational running group Diamond Creek Runners (DCR) offered to help us run the event as it gave them an opportunity to give something back to the community in a way that was consistent with their own goals.
“Having people involved who understand what interests and motivates runners has had a huge impact on the event and the numbers have rapidly grown since they became involved.”
Research Brigade 3rd Lieutenant Steve Hewett said the event had also expanded in recent years to provide the opportunity for other community organisations to promote their messages.
“Last year we engaged with the Pat Cronin foundation to provide them with the opportunity to promote the dangers of the coward punch,” Steve said.
“We in turn attend their event Walk to the Valley, taking along a couple of trucks and engaging with the community and participants.
“We’ve also worked with local charity Footscape and will be again collecting shoes at ‘Run for the Firies’ for people in need as part of Footscape’s Shoe It Forward project.
“The great thing about this event is that we’re not only extending our involvement within our communities but contributing and helping many people across the state.”