Quietest bushfire season in a decade but the RFS were still busy training new volunteers on the Far South Coast

Despite reports showing this was the quietest bushfire season in a decade, our South Coast Rural Fire Services were still busy training new volunteers who had decided to join the RFS following the bushfires.

Members of the NSW Rural Fire Service following the bushfires of 2019-20. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Members of the NSW Rural Fire Service following the bushfires of 2019-20. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service.

Superintendent of the Far South Coast RFS John Cullen said that over the past twelve months numbers of volunteers wanting to get out there into their communities and contribute to keeping people safe had swelled.

A lot of time over the summer months had gone into training these new volunteers said John.

"We've had a great number of people join our service and for that change to happen, we've been working around COVID to get people trained and to be available to go on trucks again.

"They joined their local brigades and as part of that we arranged for basic firefighter training for them and a lot of that they can now do online.

"So we have been busy working to get a lot of them trained and on trucks and also in their personal protective equipment too, so they are available for response within the brigade."

John said that people who joined wanted to gain more skills and be more prepared when it comes to fires.

It also gave people a chance to work as a team, help those less fortunate than themselves, gain bushfire skills and improve their local knowledge.

RFS members provide fire and emergency services to approximately 95 percent of NSW. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

RFS members provide fire and emergency services to approximately 95 percent of NSW. Photo: NSW Rural Fire Service

He said that a lot of local knowledge has been gained by the RFS following the the bushfires of 2019-20 which can now be passed onto new volunteers.

"Look it was a very stressful time for all involved and certainly they worked with their natural skills, but they probably learnt about better organisation in their brigade and capabilities of people in their brigade.

"Certainly the fire behaviours was large and a lot of knowledge was gained just from fires reacting just out of the ordinary.

John said that RFS members also learnt to better follow their training and skills for the safety of others and themselves when working on fires of that magnitude and of that danger.

Floods and other emergencies across Far South NSW Coast kept firefighters on their toes

NSW RFS Crews assisting to remove fallen trees during flooding events in March 2021. Photo: Andrew Bicknell.

NSW RFS Crews assisting to remove fallen trees during flooding events in March 2021. Photo: Andrew Bicknell.

Although it has been a quieter season there has still been plenty for the RFS to assist with following the flooding events in late March 2021.

"We work very closely with the SES and we also sent crews to Port Macquarie to support them and to work up there cleaning out homes and picking up mess and just supporting those communities badly affected by the floods.

John said they also attend house fires, structural fires, electrical fires and motor vehicle accidents over the bushfire season.

Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association Branch volunteers assisting with a building fire. Photo: supplied by Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association.

Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association Branch volunteers assisting with a building fire. Photo: supplied by Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association.

In terms of the conditions throughout the summer John said that a dry patch at the end of January coupled with lightening strikes did cause a few minor fires which had some risk around them however rain and flooding events have since dampened the land.

"The floods have shut everything down and as far as recovery goes, but everything looks magnificent and green around here now.

There was also a lot of debris and wash out from the mountains after the floods said John, which showed the extent of the burnout over the mountain range.

"There has been a lot of sand and top soil from the burnt areas.

"A lot of our creeks and gullies have dumped those sorts of things onto flats.

In the coming months the RFS will be working on carrying out hazard reduction burns in and around villages in the area.

"When it dries out we can start doing that again," said John.

Hazard reduction burning will continue once grounds have dried up. Photo: Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association.

Hazard reduction burning will continue once grounds have dried up. Photo: Bega Valley Rural Fire Service Association.

John Cullen's top 10 tips for preparing your homes during winter months 

  1. Clean back around your house and gutters now.
  2. If people are burning excess debris, they should notify the RSF and their neighbours
  3. Burning is only one method people can use to reduce fuel. Mowing, raking and grazing are other ways.
  4. Selectively clear to create space in the tree canopy cover and make sure no trees are overhanging over homes.
  5. Look at what worked well for you the previous season and what didn't work well. Organise and talk with your family and little communities and see what you can do better from last year.
  6. Good, clean and dry wood is always required for burning wood inside homes in fireplaces
  7. Make sure maintenance is done on your heating systems and that your flues are clean.
  8. Keep flammable items away from fire at all times.
  9. Put guards up to make sure nothing can fall out and light things on fire.
  10. Test pumping gear and make enough hose to go around your house in case of fires next year.
This story Quietest season in a decade but RFS still busy training new volunteers following bushfires first appeared on Bega District News.