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RFS recognises committed volunteers

Friday, 4th April, 2014

Volunteer Douglas Harrison (centre) of the Netley Brigade was presented with a Long Service medal for 65 years of commitment to the RFS by Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (left) and Region West Manager Paul Smith. Volunteer Douglas Harrison (centre) of the Netley Brigade was presented with a Long Service medal for 65 years of commitment to the RFS by Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons (left) and Region West Manager Paul Smith.

By Nick Gibbs

Three local volunteers were among 15 people from Western NSW to be awarded Long Service Medals for more than 50 years of commitment to the Rural Fire Service.

John Gall and Albert Lacey of the Barrier Range Brigade and Douglas Harrison of the Netley Brigade have collectively achieved over 175 years of service between them.

Thirty-five medals representing a combined total of 1298 years were presented to members of the Barrier Range, Silverton, Little Topar and Netley Brigades when Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, Region West Manager Paul Smith and Far West District Manager Chris Favelle visited Broken Hill yesterday.

This is the first time volunteers from the far west unincorporated zone have been presented with Long Service Medals.

“It’s a real privilege to be able to say thank you and acknowledge the work of our volunteers,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said at the ceremony yesterday morning.

“It’s not just the busy, difficult and dangerous times, it’s throughout the whole year whether it’s training, attending meetings or administration.”

A significant percentage of medals presented went to female volunteers, something Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the unincorporated region should be credited for.

“For too long, blokes were the only ones on the books,” he said, speaking generally about the NSW RFS.

Douglas Harrison’s 65 years as a volunteer was also heralded as extraordinary. 

“They clearly signed you up at birth Doug,” he said.

Nine medals were awarded to Menindee Rural and Menindee Headquarters volunteers who have combined for a total of 228 years of service at a ceremony held Wednesday night.

Members of the Cobar Headquarters, Euabalong Rural, Ivanhoe, Mossgiel and Darnick Brigades were presented with medals earlier this week.

“In total, this week’s 101 Long Service Medal recipients have accumulated an impressive 3707 years of service between them,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

“Each of these men and women provide a vital service to their community, whether they’re fighting bush fires or conducting important hazard reduction.

The tour coincided with the official end of the 2013/14 bush fire season in NSW last Monday.

“This was the busiest season the service has seen in over a decade, with damaging fires occurring as early as August,” the commissioner said.

“NSW RFS crews responded to more than 14,956 incidents from August to March, including more than 6,643 bush, grass and scrub fires which burnt an area half the size of Greater Sydney.”

Mid October was a particularly challenging period of the NSW RFS when fire destroyed 216 homes in the Blue Mountains, Southern Highlands and Port Stephens. 

“Sadly this season two lives were lost. Walter Linder who suffered a heart attack while protecting his home near Lake Munmorah and pilot David Black, whose waterbombing plane crashed while firefighting near Ulladulla,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

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