Australia — At the end of the 2013/14 bush fire season, NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons acknowledged Trangie resident David Black who lost his life when his plane crashed while fighting fires.
“Sadly this season two lives were lost. Pilot David Black, whose waterbombing plane crashed whilst firefighting near Ulladulla and Walter Linder who suffered a heart attack while protecting his home near Lake Munmorah,” he said.
“The loss of both these men was felt deeply by their local community and NSW RFS community alike. Our thoughts continue to be with their family and friends.”
Mr Black was killed during firefighting operations on the NSW South Coast when his plane crashed west of Ulladulla in October last year.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons acknowledged it was a difficult and destructive bush fire season.
“This was the busiest season the service had seen over a decade, with damaging fires occurring as early as August,” he said.
“NSW RFS crews responded to more than 14,956 incidents from August to March, including more than 6643 bush, grass and scrub fires which burnt an area half the size of Greater Sydney (599,398 hectares).”
Commissioner Fitzsimmons reflected on October 13 to 26 as a particularly challenging period with 216 homes destroyed across the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Port Stephens.
“The Winmalee and Yellow Rock communities in the Blue Mountains were the hardest hit with 195 homes destroyed in a matter of hours,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
“Once again thousands of firefighters worked around the clock to protect life and property as part of a co-ordinated firefighting effort including Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife, Forestry Corporation NSW, along with their interstate fire colleagues, NSW Police and the wider NSW emergency management community.”
Not only have NSW RFS volunteers been working hard here in NSW, but more than 1400 personnel were deployed to South Australia and Victoria.
“Throughout the season NSW RFS volunteers have taken time away from their families, jobs and communities to help others. For this they deserve our sincere thanks and gratitude,” he said.
The public engaged with the NSW RFS through phone applications, social media websites and public meetings.
“The public appetite for information was again considerable this season, including the localised information provided through public meetings which often had more than 1000 people present.
“During October alone the NSW RFS website had around 5.7 million visits, our Facebook posts reached more than 45 million people and NSW RFS Twitter posts were retweeted 18,300 times, enabling us to reach more people than ever before.
“It is encouraging to see the community engaging with fire information and taking their safety seriously.”