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Cudgewa heroes praised for saving beloved church

The Father of Cudgewa’s Holy Trinity Church has finally tracked down the brave fireys who saved the church from savage fires that ripped through their town.

The heroes of Cudgewa have been found.

Strike Team 2335 from Wangaratta District 23 have been revealed as the brave fireys who saved the Holy Trinity Church from the inferno that ravaged Cudgewa on December 30.

Father Mitch Porter last week told the Sunday Herald Sun he wanted to find those responsible and thank them — even joking he would “kiss their feet”.

Cudgewa heroes praised for saving beloved church

Father Mitchell Porter from the Holy Trinity church in Cudgewa thanks Cudgewa CFA captain Paul Carkeek for saving the property from fires that ripped through the town. Picture: Simon DallingerSource:Supplied

Pictures taken by firefighter Jason Turner show how close the flames got to the church, engulfing a tree just metres away. Mr Turner said it was a “horrific night”.

Roger Maxwell, Springhurst CFA captain, said the crew got called to Cudgewa after they had fought the fire in Walwa.

“We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We had to drive through the front to get into town ... a column collapsed on us and everything lit up.” The following six hours were like living in a “firestorm and hurricane”, he said.

“The church was a win. The fire came from across the road and the tree next to it just exploded. The night was really separated into 60-second blocks — you would think you had saved something and it changed so quick, and you realised it was gone.”

Father Mitchell Porter expected the church would’ve been lost to the savage fires, but was happily surprised when he returned to find it still standing. Picture: Simon DallingerSource:Supplied

Mr Maxwell said someone had described the night as being “won by the fire” but was proud his team “gave it a good crack” and saved many homes and businesses from the inferno.

Father Porter was planning on catching up with the crew soon.

“They are going to come up here and have a beer.”

His belief that the church came close to disaster as flames got close to LPG cylinders was confirmed by speaking to Mr Maxwell.

“He said they were spraying the gas cylinders.”

FUNDS INJECTED

A much-needed $2 million will be urgently spent by the state government to revive regional Victoria’s tourism industry, smashed by the bushfires crisis.

As hard-hit rural communities across East Gippsland and the northeast — which bore the brunt of the infernos — cry out for Victorians to “come back”, their pleas will be supported by the huge promotional campaign.

Supplied image of bushfire near the church in Cudgewa. Picture: Jason TurnerSource:Supplied

Peak tourism body Visit Victoria will push rural destinations and their festivals and special events by swamping newspapers, TV radio and the internet with advertising.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Martin Pakula will announce the special drive today.

“The campaign, which includes the slogan ‘A short stay goes a long way’, is all about encouraging Victorians to visit regional towns doing it tough,” he told the Sunday Herald Sun.

His announcement comes as the Sunday Herald Sun today launches the Go Country campaign to further drive tourists — especially Melburnians — back to our world-famous natural beauty spots, coastal resorts and small towns.

All are bouncing back and eager to host late-summer crowds and to be on the must-visit list for Labour Day and Easter getaways.

From, today, the Sunday Herald Sun and the Herald Sun will showcasethe many communities shattered by the fires, highlighting the outstanding spirit, resilience and hospitality of our great regions.

Speaking yesterday, Mr Pakula said a separate funding initiative that will also be managed by Visit Victoria will see 15 local government areas hit by the fires able to apply for cash to host events to help get towns back on their feet.

The special bushfire recovery round of the Regional Events Fund would commit $300,000 to a festivals and events program.

Burnt trees and debris cover the Princes Highway between Orbost and Cann River. Picture: GettySource:Getty Images

Olivia, 7, finds a good use for all the ash from the fires washed up on the beach, building ash castles. Picture: David CairdSource:News Corp Australia

Both new and established events will be eligible for fast-tracked funding of up to $20,000 each. “Events provide a tremendous boost for local communities and that’s why we want to give organisers every opportunity to draw a bumper crowd to their town,” Mr Pakula said.

Applications open this month.

Visit Victoria CEO Brendan McClements said the best way people could help bushfire-affected zones was to “get back out there”.

“This is an incredibly important part of the recovery process, as your time in these regions supports thousands of local jobs and businesses that underpin the vibrant communities,” he said.

“Our state is home to some of the most beautiful parts of the world, hosts an array of extraordinary events and has the friendliest people you will encounter — not to mention the best vanilla slices, meat pies and sausage rolls you’ll ever taste.”

Originally published asCudgewa heroes praised for saving beloved church

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