Plea for help out west strikes a chord with local RFS firies

Photo: Lower North Coast RFS
Photo: Lower North Coast RFS

Since January 3, three strike teams made up of volunteer firefighters from the Nambucca and Macleay Valley RFS brigades have been sent to assist crews battling blazes in Tamworth, Inverell, and down the South Coast.

On January 2 the Northern Daily Leader (NDL) reported that the Rural Fire Service's "already stretched resources" were stretched even further after overnight lightning strikes sparked new fires in the Tamworth region.

NDL's Madeline Link said local firefighters were at "breaking point" and faced up to 20 spot fires, with catastrophic fire conditions predicted later that week.

With conditions in our area finally quieting, the decision was quickly made to send back-up to our westerly neighbours, who had been so willing to help us in our time of need months earlier.

Lower North Coast RFS Superintendent Lachlann Ison said he had no trouble filling the strike teams with local (volunteer) brigade members.

"It's definitely a cultural thing," he said.

"All their colleagues down south and out west have had no hesitation to help us out here, so after a few weeks' break many local volunteers were keen to put up their hands to return the favour."

Each strike team is made up of 20 firefighters, who've travelled to affected areas in five tankers and one support vehicle.

Their main duties have been backburning operations, and helping to "mop up" after the fires.

Supt Ison said the terrain out west is fairly similar, just with different forest types, and our crews have been able to make use of their recent experience here.

He said the out-of-area assistance will continue for as long as our crews are needed.

When asked how this unprecedented season has affected our volunteer firefighters, Supt Ison said: "it's been a tough slog, but we've had outstanding support from the community from day one. That has given them energy to persevere".

With 2019 delivering merely a third of the average annual rainfall to our region and over half of Summer still to come, perseverance is a necessary trait for our firies.

"We're just taking one day at a time, and working with the hand that Mother Nature has dealt," Supt Ison said.

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