As bushfires in Loch Sport and Briagolong wreaked havoc, threatening homes and lives, local authorities established an Emergency Relief Centre (ERC)at the Gippsland Regional Sports Complex (GRSC).

The ERC at the GRSC was activated just before 3am on Tuesday, October 3, providing a safe space for those impacted by the bushfires.

ERC doors opened to arrivals before 6.30am, with residents mostly from Golden Beach, Paradise Beach, Stratford and Briagolong filtering in across the day, many bringing their pets with them.

Paradise Beach resident Brownwen Rowlands was among the first to arrive at the ERC on Tuesday morning.

“We arrived about 6am-ish,” Ms Rowlands said.

“We’ve brought our dog, and we’ve also got our cat; she’s in the car.”

As dark clouds rolled over the GRSC just before noon and a cool breeze whipped through the car park, Ms Rowlands was far more hopeful than when she first arrived.

“There’s been a bit of a change, so hopefully there is some rain coming through and everything’s okay,” she said.

“The temperature has definitely reduced; it was still really hot this morning (Tuesday), it was like 26 degrees, and the wind, cause we are right at the very end of Paradise Beach, was definitely worried then.”

While Ms Rowlands wasn’t completely without worry for the house she left behind, the choice to leave was an easy one to make.

“I am [worried], but like I said to my son, I’d rather we go, material things you can replace, lives you can’t,” she said.

“Us and the animals, that’s the most important thing.”

Golden Beach, Paradise Beach, Stratford and Briagolong residents, many with their cats and dogs, sought refuge at the ERC. Photo: Zoe Askew

Wellington Shire Council and GRSC staff operated the ERC until it was stood down at 4pm as the downgraded emergency warnings reduced demand.

“In Wellington, we take pride in our ability to respond efficiently to any emergency situation where people could be at risk,” Wellington Shire Council Mayor Ian Bye said.

“It’s unusual for fires like this to occur so early in October, so we need to stay prepared and on alert in the coming months. The recent events have shown that we are ready to assist and make sure vulnerable people get the help they need during emergencies.”

Wellington Shire Council said their customer service line received a number of calls enquiring about assistance and support options in the day’s Loch Sport and Briagolong fires posed a threat.

Council reminded the public that physical donations cannot be accepted by dropping them off at any ERC. Individuals can, however, contribute money, items, and their time through the trusted donation managing platform GIVIT.