WHEN it comes to natural disasters, they don't come much more terrifying than Australia's massive bushfires.
It's not even November yet, but already walls of flames have devastated swaths of the Blue Mountains, taking hundreds of homes and leaving a heart-breaking trail of destruction. While these catastrophes bring with them so much pain, they also have a habit of bringing out the best in us.
Like St Thomas Aquinas Primary School principal Sergio Rosato, who played music and reassured his students as their Springwood school was being evacuated, giving no hint of his own pain - having just lost his own home to the flames.
Individual acts of bravery, resilience and determination are common in fires such as those still burning in NSW. But few people embody the level of heroism more than the volunteers who put their own safety on the line for no reward other than their sense of community.
This year a record-breaking number of Canberrans have volunteered as firefighters in an area that already has one of the highest levels of community volunteering in the country - not bad for a place so often sneered at as a city without a soul. Today the Sunday Canberra Times pays tribute to our volunteer and professional firefighters who are already working hard to keep us safe this bushfire season. We are indeed a lucky community to have so many selfless men and women prepared to give up so much for the greater good.
The bushfire risks facing our city are daunting. Canberra was built in the middle of a natural fire path, and the large, mountainous areas of national parks to our west will always be a risk that cannot be totally ameliorated.
It is also important that we continue to ask hard questions of those tasked with managing our fire risks, to ensure there is best practice, that the community is kept informed and that painful mistakes of the past are not repeated.
But there is also an important place in those discussions to pause and give thanks to all the men and women who have proved again and again to be among the most respected and appreciated members of our community.
Today we extend a thank you to our firefighters and implore all Canberrans to join us in supporting our brave men and women in any way they can. We wish them all the best for their efforts assisting colleagues interstate and hope for a safe, incident-free summer closer to home.