Australian Wildfires: Hampshire firefighter to help with recovery

Australian Wildfires: Hampshire firefighter to help with recovery

Published by Mike Draper at 5:41am 7th February 2020. (Updated at 5:47am 7th February 2020)

3 minute read

Steve Watters, from Salisbury, is heading to Canberra where a state of emergency has recently been declared.

He's part of the first group to fly out this week on a mission organised by the firefighter-run charity Tunnel2Towers.

Steve will work with 40 other firefighters re-establishing communities and working alongside wildlife organisations devastated by large bushfires that continue to rage in Canberra.


The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has declared a state of emergency. More than 18,500 hectares is burning in the territory's south and residents have been warned of possible evacuations.

In the past four months Australian bushfires have:

  • Killed 33 people
  • Destroyed thousands of homes
  • Killed an estimated one billion animals
  • Scorched more than 11 million hectares of land

Steve Watters and the team of current and retired firefighters will be camping in Adelong and working closely with Fire and Rescue New South Wales (NSW).

A selfie of Firefighter Steve Watters with a fire engine in the background.
Steve has family living in Australia and has seen the devastation caused by the wildfires.

Whilst the team won't be doing any actual firefighting, they will be assisting with re-establishing boarders and restoring farms and homes. Steve will help rebuild the farming communities by constructing fences, buildings and animal shelters.

51-year-old Steve from Salisbury said:

"I'm doing this because it'll be an amazing development opportunity that is close to home for me. I have family living in Australia and I've seen the devastation and how hard communities have been hit. This is a chance for me to give something back and help people in need. I'm sure this will be an experience that will stay with me forever."

"Every little bit helps, and I've always believed that if you can help, you should. The more people that join and come together as a team, the sooner these communities can get back to their normal lives."


Steve has been a part of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service for nearly 25-years, serving as a firefighter at Eastleigh, Andover and now Winchester.

He's honed his skills with Hampshire's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) team, assisting with the collaboration and planning of deployment to the earthquakes in Haiti and Christchurch, New Zealand, and Japan after the tsunami hit in 2011.


Steve will also work with BlazeAid, RSPCA Australia and WIRES (Australia's largest wildlife rehabilitation charity) to rescue, recover and provide welfare to injured koalas and kangaroos. 

Group Manager Jerry Leonard, who had a fundamental role in developing the Hampshire USAR team, said:

"Steve has diverse skills to offer, not only his specialised knowledge from being with the service and USAR, but also his practical ability."

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