NSW fire emergency prompts RFS volunteer to plead for government action

A heartfelt plea from a Far South Coast volunteer firefighter to the federal government has gone viral with its call to action.

Chris Nicholls, who has written to the PM about the bushfire situation.

Chris Nicholls, who has written to the PM about the bushfire situation.

Merimbula Rural Fire Service firefighter Chris Nicholls is desperate for the fire situation to be taken more seriously by government and is urging all levels to treat it as a national emergency.

In a heartfelt open letter to the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, he calls for planning, task forces, more resources for fire fighters including communications technology, fire fighting aircraft and the pilots to fly them.

The post on his personal Facebook page has already been shared more than 5000 times and attracted 700-plus comments and climbing quickly.

"It's the tyranny of it, the endless battle, it's a rolling war against the environment. Firefighters keep stepping up but I've seen firefighters so tired they can't even step into the truck," Mr Nicholls, said stressing that he was speaking as an individual and not as a representative of any organisation.

Firefighters keep stepping up but I've seen firefighters so tired they can't even step into the truck.

Chris Nicholls

"When I see my colleagues from my brigade jump into a plane or a bus to take them up north in a strike team to go into battle against an unprecedented enemy of catastrophic proportions, I wonder if we might ever see them again. And they are my friends and wonderful people.

"When my RFS pager goes off in the middle of a hot, blustery severe fire danger day and I have to rush off to a bushfire, and as I am sitting in the truck proceeding under sirens and lights to the fire, I wonder if this might be my last day too," Mr Nicholls wrote.

"Unprecedented - that's the word we need to rally around. It's not normal and might become normal and we need to deal with it differently," he said.

He said it was like a war with continuing battles, something that Australia and particularly its governments at all levels should be responding to and prepared to fight.

When I see my colleagues from my brigade jump into a plane or a bus to take them up north in a strike team to go into battle against an unprecedented enemy of catastrophic proportions, I wonder if we might ever see them again.

Chris Nicholls

"We need to fight for Australia."

The RFS is the largest volunteer firefighting force in the world. In NSW 90 per cent are volunteers and they are people from all walks of life.

The logistics of sending strike force teams north means RFS members are taken out of their own area, which may also be at risk. And given the size and seriousness of the fires now, it is likely to be happening for months, Mr Nicholls says.

"How much pressure is this for individuals, we're fatigued, we get tired and then we're fatigued when we come back here - but despite that when you ask for volunteers hands will always be in the air," he said.

He said that the firefighters look after each other a lot, staying in contact and all make use of the counselling services that are available.

We need to treat this as if it was a war, a climate war which will have bigger effects as time goes on. We need a unified and structured approach.

Chris Nicholls

"We need to treat this as if it was a war, a climate war which will have bigger effects as time goes on. We need a unified and structured approach.

"I don't think Morrison and co are bad people, it just seems like they're numb. People don't want platitudes and to hear the cricket is doing well. Rural communities are really suffering. It's about time governments stood up," Mr Nicholls said.

"We need the government to rally people together, not just be a chief legislator or give out the rhetoric but act as a power for good. The government needs to rise up and tackle this in a more unified and strategic way

"We appreciate the thanks but that's not what drives us, it's the community and the safety of our community."

Chris Nicholls' letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you as a member of the Far South Coast of NSW community, and as a bush firefighter with our local RFS Brigade.

You need to listen to me.

I swore that if I heard the word, "unprecedented" one more time I would write to you. I heard it again tonight in comments by experts over the megafire around Sydney. So, here's your letter.

There is one more thing that is 'unprecedented'. It's your Government's complete INACTION over the current bushfire emergency in Australia. And please don't tell me about the pathetic response so far with more thoughts and prayers from Hillsong. This is a NATIONAL EMERGENCY not a minor weather event.

We are not frantically impressed with these platitudes down here. When I see my colleagues from my brigade jump into a plane or a bus to take them up north in a strike team to go into battle against an unprecedented enemy of catastrophic proportions, I wonder if we might ever see them again. And they are my friends and wonderful people.

When my RFS pager goes off in the middle of a hot, blustery severe fire danger day and I have to rush off to a bushfire, and as I am sitting in the truck proceeding under sirens and lights to the fire, I wonder if this might be my last day too.

We don't have time for you to sit on your hands and wish us platitudes and cricket news.

Here's what we need you to do:

1. Treat the situation as if it was a WAR being waged on Australia by an unpredictable enemy with considerable weaponry, capable of jumping front lines easily and attacking from several fronts simultaneously, with devastating results. It takes no prisoners.

2. Treat each event as a BATTLE and a part of the WAR.

3. Appoint a WAR cabinet with special powers to mobilise the country, the armed services and whatever resources are required to fight the battles to win the WAR.

4. The WAR is CLIMATE CHANGE, and the battles are fires, drought, intense weather events such as tropical cyclones and other climate related phenomenon in the new normal of the climate-changed world.

5. The WAR is the long game - and will be fought over several decades into the future, so there needs to be planning and task forces and armies and technology and considerable ingenuity.

6. Support your people - the people of Australia: tell them the Government cares and is actually mobilising and doing something about it.

7. Do it, and let's worry about the platitudes some other day.

Yours sincerely

Chris Nicholls

Merimbula, NSW

Have Your Say. Send us a letter to the editor using the form below

Comments