RESCUE REWARD: Warwick SES recognised for bushland search
IT WAS 8pm on a Friday night after a long day at work, but that didn't stop Warwick SES volunteers responding in droves when the call came through that a little girl was missing.
About 30 SES volunteers rushed to search for three-year-old Aurora Kyle when she wandered into bushland at Wildash in April.
Not only did Warwick SES need to co-ordinate trained volunteers for the search, they were also faced with at least 60 civilian volunteers from as far as Goondiwindi who put their hands up to help.
While their hearts were in the right place, some arrived wearing thongs and no torch to cut through the dark bushland.
Warwick SES group leader Matt Sondergeld was the operational co-ordinator for the effort.
He recently accepted the Regional Operational Response of the Year award on behalf of the Warwick SES for Aurora's rescue.
Mr Sondergeld said when the SES were called, they conducted a search of the rural property at Wildash and other obvious places Aurora may have ventured to.
But she was nowhere to be found.
"You obviously get worried and worry about their safety but then you think of your training," he said.
An 'overwhelming' amount of civilian volunteers arrived to help with the search after a social media call out, so Mr Sondergeld said the group tried to organise a system that would keep everyone safe.
"We tried to get everyone to come to the police and us so we knew how many people were out searching so we didn't lose any more people," he said.
"If we have 100 search we want 100 to come back.
"We were searching in multiple groups, we had people in multiple directions searching in coordinates on a map."
Volunteers worked until about 2am in the morning, then 65 volunteers arrived first thing Saturday morning to resume the search through the dense bushland.
Thankfully, early on Saturday, Aurora was found safe and well with the trusty family blue heeler Max.
Mr Sondergeld said the SES group did an amazing job and he was chuffed when they received the award.
"I think they're an elite bunch, they're very well trained and disciplined, a well-oiled machine," he said.
"We train every Tuesday night, the guys and ladies put their heart and soul into the SES in town."
Mr Sondergeld said Aurora's rescue demonstrated the importance of having well-trained SES volunteers on hand in Warwick.
They have 45 volunteers signed up and are always looking for more, he said.
"People don't think of us until they're in need or in dire straits, so we're in the background but always willing to help or have a go," he said.
"We try and run Warwick SES as a big family, once you're in there we're a big family and we look after each other."
Anyone interested in joining Warwick SES can phone local controller John Newley on 0418791536.