In a time of crisis and emergency amid the raging NSW bushfires, a new image has shown the compassion and community spirit of locals on Sydney’s North Shore.
The Guru Nanak Gurudwara Turramurra Sikh Temple on Turramurra’s Kissing Point Road kindly offered free food and water to Hornsby firefighters on Tuesday after they had worked hard to bring nearby fires under control.
In a photo shared by Hornsby Rural Fire Brigade, 10 local firefighters were pictured sitting by the side of the road eating vegetarian Indian cuisine provided by the Sikh temple.
“A huge thanks to the Guru Nanak Gurudwara Turramurra Sikh Temple Sydney for providing meals to our hungry firefighters!! Pictured here are the crews from Hornsby 1 and Hornsby 7 enjoying their meals after bringing the Canoon Road fire under control,” read the image caption.
A fire at Kissing Point Road was also at emergency level before being downgraded to “advice” after being brought under control, reported SBS.
Hornsby Rural Fire Brigade Captain, Theo Klich, said he and his team were “very grateful” for the temple’s hospitality.
″The firies were very grateful for a feed. After having an early lunch in preparation for a busy afternoon, they had worked hard and had built up a hunger,” Kilch told HuffPost Australia.
“They were grateful for the support of the local residents and community, and whilst morale was already high (having successfully contained the fire), it was nice gesture on behalf of the community.”
Harbir Pal Singh Bhatia, the President of the North Shore Sikh Association of Sydney, said he and other members of the Sikh temple put together more than 120 food boxes containing curry and rice that were offered to firefighters and local residents.
On Tuesday it was the birthday of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, and Mr Bhatia said he didn’t think twice about sharing some of their festive food with the firefighters.
“We always prepare food in the langar which is our community kitchen which you will find in all Sikh temples, and we were cooking quite a lot of the food for the special day,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“It clicked to me and I said ‘Guys, let’s get some containers’. We put a team of about four to five ladies who started putting some rice and three types of curries and we had some water boxes and glasses.”
He said the temple’s generosity showed that now is the time for communities to rally together regardless of race and faith.
Turramurra resident Nawneet Kumar Dalal, whose house is two kilometres from where the fires were, witnessed the Sikh temple’s generosity first-hand after stopping by the area after 6pm on Tuesday.
“I had seen six to seven guys from the local Gurudwara asking everyone for food and water. They were offering to everyone there including firefighters, media and local residents including me,” he told HuffPost Australia.
“I had seen them even approaching the people who were coming back to their houses. The reaction from everyone I’d seen was very surprising and welcoming.
“Being an Indian, believer of Sikhism, and regular visitor of local Turramurra, it was a matter of pride for us to see our guys were there to play their role.”
The temple also informed devotees via Facebook that it wouldn’t be following traditions of lighting candles as part of its religious practices due to the state-wide fire ban.
On Wednesday the temple also told local residents and emergency services that they “welcome all to visit” and thanked the firefighters for their work.
“The Sikh temple is open to all for shelter and food and we welcome all to visit. To all the firefighters & emergency services who are battling horrific conditions and fighting against these horrendous fires WE THANK YOU ALL,” read a statement on Facebook.
“We are here to help and should you need any volunteers, help or us to deliver food or water please let us know we are here to help you and the wider community. Anyone in need please let us know.”
This has been declared as one of Australia’s worst bushfire seasons, and on Tuesday aircrafts were diverted to drop fire retardants on bushfires threatening homes in Sydney’s northern suburbs, including Turramurra.
Officials were responding to 11 emergency warnings in NSW by evening as around half the 70 fires across the state burned uncontrolled in conditions termed “catastrophic”.
As the fires are expected to continue, Klich said: “Our firies are feeling good, happy to have been able to contribute.
“As we are volunteers, who do this in our time off (usually with the generous support of our employers and families), we are heartened by their [the temple’s] support and the provision of food.
“This thanks also goes out to the rest of the community that provided assistance to us. We are grateful for these acts of kindness, however we want to acknowledge that they are not expected, as we are happy to do the job that we are tasked to do without payment or reward.”