Volunteered as a teenager, now fire commissioner

    Volunteered as a teenager, now fire commissioner

19 September 2007

published by www.smh.com.au   

Australia — If drought-stricken NSW is a tinderbox waiting to ignite, the new commissioner of the Rural Fire Service is not saying so. At 38, age is not the only obvious difference between Shane Fitzsimmons, a long-term volunteer, and his seasoned predecessor, Phil Koperberg.

The media-savvy and calm Mr Koperberg, now a state cabinet minister, provided words of assurance each summer as bushfires raged. He employed the term “tinderbox” during one particularly bad fire season.

Mr Fitzsimmons is a new breed, seemingly without the sharp media grabs Mr Koperberg dealt out during his 21-year reign. He does, however, acknowledge that Mr Koperberg’s status as the most recognisable NSW firefighter will be a hard act to follow.

“Mr Koperberg was a pioneer for the Rural Fire Service. His departure leaves some significant boots to fill,” Mr Fitzsimmons said. “My commitment is going to be servicing the volunteers in going about their business and ensuring, with Government, that we work on providing the resources where they’re needed and when they are needed.”

He said NSW was in the “best predicament” in years heading into this year’s bushfire season. “Fortunately, we’ve seen some rain across much of the coastal range in recent times.”

The former mechanic who joined the Duffys Forest Brigade at 15 was described by the Emergency Services Minister, Nathan Rees, as having an “exceptional level of ability in administration, operational management and policy developments” as well as the support of the volunteers

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