Powerful Photo of Australian Firefighter Holding His Newborn Shows Hope Amid the Devastation

Hickling photography
Hickling Photography

More than 17.9 million acres of land across Australia have been burned in one of the country's worst fire seasons on record. The devastating blaze has been raging since September, resulting in the loss of 27 human lives and more than half a billion plants and animals, as it continues to threaten countless others. It's for this reason that a recent photo of a firefighter in Northeast Victoria has gone viral. In it, new dad Beau Haines is seen smiling while holding his infant son in the Kiewa fire station -- reminding us all of the many people putting their lives on the line to save Australia.

  • Speaking with CafeMom, photographers Kurt and Charlyne Hickling say they chose to shoot in the fire station because it seemed safe.

    The bush fires were nearby, the couple tells us, so they felt the station was the safest place to get a perfect shot of Haines with his new son, Spencer.

    "Beau is a volunteer firefighter for the Country Fire Authority and has been deployed in Victoria and New South Wales," say the Hicklings, who run Hickling Photogaphy. "His partner Cassie was due to have the baby, but luckily Beau was released from the fires in time to see his son being born."

    In the four months since the wildfires began, air quality across Australia has been greatly compromised, even reaching hazardous levels in some areas. Breathing in the smoky air in Sydney has been said to be as bad as smoking 37 cigarettes at once -- which poses a great threat to both humans and native wildlife, BBC News reports. 

    The fires broke out during a record-breaking heat wave, though experts believe they were caused by a variety of factors, including lightning strikes and climate conditions that allowed the fires to spread rapidly. Authorities also suspect arson may have been at play. 

    But the fires have been destructive in unprecedented ways.

    “Power, fuel, and food supplies have been severely interrupted to some communities and road closures have been common,” a recent report by the Red Cross stated. “This has resulted in some communities being isolated, or only accessible by air or sea (when smoke conditions allow).” 

    For many living in isolated communities, this has made it even harder to get help. In the meantime, first responders are doing everything they can to save those in need and try to prevent the fires from spreading further.

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  • Knowing all this, the Hicklings wanted to capture the heroism they were seeing on the frontlines of the devastation.

    "We wanted to come up with an idea that would send a powerful and positive message to everyone far and wide," the couple shared. 

    So they came up with the idea to photograph Haines and Spencer in the engine room of the CFA fire station in Kiewa. 

    "The message we wanted to show was that not all heroes wear capes, and our men and woman of the CFA are paramount to the community," they explain. They also wanted "to show they have families to come home to, which is why we always pray for a safe return of our firefighters," they added.

    On the day of the shoot, Beau had just finished working a round-the-clock shift to do his part in stopping the fires.

    “You could see the love,” Hickling told Today Parents. “Beau was emotional and exhausted from working a 20-hour shift and just so glad to be home with his family. It’s so important for these heroes to make it home to their families." 

  • The Hicklings have some advice for people in the United States who want to help from afar.

    The couple tells CafeMom that donating to the Country Fire Authority would do a world of good. "That’s going to help our volunteers get the resources they really need."

    Although the couple says that the full extent of the damage has yet to be seen, there are rumblings that some of the destruction has done permanent damage.

    "There have been reports of the snowy mountain brumbies [horses] being wiped out but it is not confirmed yet," they say. "That area has been completely devastated by the fire and you can’t access the area."

    Farmers have lost whole herds of their stock, they add, and "the ones that are left behind are starving due to feed not being accessible as roads to the area are still blocked by fire."

    The air quality has been "listed by the EPA is the worst in the world. We’re all choking on the smoke," they explain.

    "That’s why our photo has been so huge here. It’s bringing a bit of hope -- highlighting our volunteers and the fact of their families."

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