THE bushfire crisis that engulfed the Manning Valley last November was to the forefront at the Taree Australia Day celebration held at Queen Elizabeth Park.
Master of ceremonies Bruce Moy started the function by asking for 'a big cheer for the firies' and the crowd responded enthusiastically.
Two of the winners of the major awards were heavily involved in the bushfire - either on the front line fighting them or providing support for the firefighters and the families who were impacted.
Taycee-Lea Jones and Owen Harper were named citizens of the year.
During the bushfires Taycee-Lea and Owen gathered together a group of volunteers to deliver pods of water to RFS volunteers. Owen and his team then followed the firetrucks into the fire front and took water to farmers and people on remote properties. Along with other community members they set up Manning Valley Emergency Support Facebook page to share information with the community.
Groups under Taycee-Lea and Oween's guidance delivered food, fuel, clothes and water to local halls in the first week after the fires. The couple worked hard to ensure communication between community groups and government remains open. They have attended meetings, delivered fodder, water, food and organised volunteers.
Two other nominees, Terry Kitching and Elaine Turner were also heavily involved in the bushfire relief.
The Wingham-based RFS unit, Wallaby Joe won the Community Group section. The majority of the unit's 10 members attended the function. This fire season placed an enormous strain on this small brigade with no opportunity for relief shifts. They were involved in the Rumba Dump and Mount George fires, where fires were contained but not extinguished due to the difficult terrain.
They also fought the Hillville and Forster fires and were in Bobin when those devastating fires decimated the area.
When there was a reprieve in the weather the team has been out working to strengthen containment lines or volunteering to support colleagues on the Central Coast and Lithgow.
"The positive impact of this small volunteer crew is substantial in the lives and properties they have saved,'' it was noted.
Taree Australia Day ambassador Maurie Stack OAM in his address outlined the way the Manning community and beyond reacted to the crisis by coming to the aid of those affected. He stressed that all monies raised for the local victims will be allocated here.
Cynthia Burke was named the Community Achiever of the Year and Quedesha Golledge the Manning River Times (Ken McDonald Memorial) Sportstar of the Year. Further details will appear later.