Rural Fire Service volunteers from around the State are being recognised for their valiant efforts during last season’s horrific bushfires.
NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) District Manager Superintendent Stuart Watts said that the Premier of NSW is awarding the bush fire emergency citation to recognise the outstanding contribution of volunteers and service agency personnel who played a significant role in the emergency response to combat the 2019/2020 bushfires in NSW.
“I have chosen to physically deliver the citations and visit as many of the Clarence Valley RFS brigades, as I can,” Supt Watts said.
“We have just short of 40 brigades here in the Clarence Valley and have just under 700 citations to hand out and I am organising with the brigades a time to fit in with them, to present the citations to some very, worthy fire fighters.
“Over the last week I’ve had the opportunity to visit six brigades and the brigades are quite excited about it.
“I’m getting a thrill out of presenting these to our individual firefighters and the brigades are very warmly accepting the citations; they did a fantastic job over the last year.
“It was very dangerous conditions at times.
“The fires went on for a long time; from August right through to February, with some of our firefighters fighting fires down on the far south coast.
“So, it wasn’t just about the fires around the Clarence Valley, it was a State-wide firefight and it’s very deserving for these people to be recognised in this way.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to get around and meet all these people face to face and be able to present them with their citation and listen to their stories.
“Some of the stories are absolutely horrific, of what they’ve seen.
“We need to support these people in what they need now in terms of training and working towards equipment and station, or whatever but most of all make sure that their mental health gets a clean bill of health, to insure that they stay with us.
“The ‘Australian blokie bloke thing’ is, don’t talk about it – and that’s just wrong, you’ve got to talk about it.
“We promote CISS (Critical Incidents Support Services) and it’s totally confidential, how many people have taken that service up.
“It’s a free service for our volunteers and I totally encourage it.
“As we move towards these key anniversary dates of when the Liberations Trail fire impacted on Nymboida and the Myall Creek fire came down and impacted on Woombah and over towards Ashby, those sort of memories are going to come back to people, particularly on the anniversary dates, so people should be mindful of that and ensure that they are physically and mentally equipped to deal with it on the day.
“October is Mental Health month and information on this service is available through the brigades, or Google CISS.
“I am promoting this as I get around to the brigades, or our members can contact us at the RFS district office, and we’ll provide the number.
“It’s totally confidential and it’s there to be used,” he said.