When the smoke has cleared enough to fly, M’Shenda Turner studies the resulting images.
As Head of ANZ Survey Operations for Nearmap, the post-catastrophe or ‘grey sky’ captures are part of the job. Years as a volunteer firefighter have, however, given her a poignant perspective, shared in this interview with Nicole Manktelow.
I work out where and when we capture our aerial imagery to make sure we are up-to-date, and I look at the images themselves to make sure we’re capturing quality. It’s always dependant on visibility, weather conditions and flight approvals and everything changes constantly. There’s a lot we can’t control. It’s a bit like a game of chess.
I was surprised at how heartbreaking this season has been for me, because I have seen so much bushfire over the years. But it’s thorough devestation this time, and through areas I know as well. It’s such a strong visual impact because it’s bare, it’s barren. There’s some areas where there is just absolutely nothing left.
I’ve always been quite active. The biggest ones I’ve been part of were in 2013, up until now of course, but I’ve always been part of the hazard reduction burning and any of the fires in any season, so I don’t have a figure.
I’ve been a firefighter for just over 11 years now, with the Rural Fire Service in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It was always something that I wanted to do. I was living in Cremorne and that’s where they set me up, when I first called to sign-up.
Both my parents are country folk who moved into the city, I grew up with holidays on cousins’ farms and the like, so I had that rural exposure. We were always out in the bush.
At the time I worked at Macquarie Bank and it was during the GFC [global financial crisis] and it was extraordinary. It was very hard work and we went out every night. I decided I needed something else to do - just for one night a week even. Life couldn’t be all work and the drinks afterwards. I joined for RFS and never looked back.