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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

NSW RFS loses two volunteers while union slams budget cuts

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As fighting fires becomes the new normal, the NSW Rural Fire Service is today in mourning for the lives of two volunteer firefighters lost overnight from the Horsely Park Brigade near Sydney.

This morning NSW Rural Fire Service Association President Brian McDonough said that Rural Fire Service volunteers and staff are devastated by the tragic incident which claimed the lives of two firefighters and injured three others last night.

‘Our hearts are breaking for the families, friends, and fellow crew members of Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton and Firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer from Horsley Park Brigade,’ he said.

Initial inquiries revealed the RFS truck, which contained five male RFS volunteers, was responding to bushfires and travelling on Wilson Drive, Buxton, when a tree fell onto the cabin about 11.30pm (Thursday 19 December 2019).

The truck appears to have travelled out of control for a short distance before rolling over. Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton and Firefighter Andrew O’Dwyer were in the front seat and died at the scene.

Three other passengers were able to free themselves from the truck and were treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics and taken to Liverpool Hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

RFS family in mourning

‘Our members know that what we do can be dangerous,’ said Mr McDonough. ‘But nothing can take away the pain we all feel when facing such terrible loss.

‘The RFS family is in mourning.’

Crash investigators are continuing inquiries into the tragedy.

Union slams NSW Government’s  ‘lack of leadership’

This morning NSW State Secretary of Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and serving firefighter Leighton Drury addressed media slamming the lack of leadership being shown during the current bushfire crisis amid budget cuts to fire services and regional communities.

Mr Drury is calling the NSW Government to respond to this state of emergency with increased funding for firefighters – where the State Government still does not consider firefighters as frontline and therefore subject to budget cuts. It follows the decision to downgrade the firefighting staffing in two regional areas, as temperatures soar and fires rage.

‘We’ve been living through one of the worst droughts ever in Australian history. Now we are living through one of the worst bushfire seasons. How much longer must we wait for the government to recognise the seriousness of the situation and increase funding to the frontline?’ said Mr Drury.

‘As my members were on taskforces alongside RFS volunteers fighting fires yesterday, senior people within Fire Rescue NSW sat across from me and told me that two communities would have fewer firefighters as of today.

‘Budget cuts have left us without the resources we need, and Fire Rescue have responded by reducing regional community fire services as a result. It’s beyond belief. Homes are being destroyed and lives being lost – yesterday alone we lost 40 houses across NSW.’

‘In regional NSW, in Urunga and Peak Hill, minimum staffing has been reduced from four to two. Due to budget cuts, we do not have the resources to deploy the fire trucks that these towns need. Instead they are having their trucks taken and replaced with ‘tankers’; these can only hold two firefighters, whereas fire trucks can hold four firefighters.

‘Less firefighters on scene means not entering structures – such as houses and factories – more destruction, more damage and more time to control these blazes.

‘What has happened to the Government’s promise that we have everything we need?’


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15 COMMENTS

    • Haven’t you heard Stefanie ?
      He’ll be home at his earliest convenience and then we can all relax !
      He knows all this global warming and climate emergency is nothing more than hippies and inner-city greenies trying to rain on his parade, and if needs be, we can always sell more coal to finance better, professional and much cheaper fire-fighters from the South Pacific , where it is getting way too soggy anyhow.
      Cheers , G”)

  1. Tragic indead,
    However, this has been horrific for months now, with deaths in the millions ,Old Growth Forrests incinerated and it is all due to our careless squandering of millions of years of carbon sequestration. We as a society are responsible for this Greenhouse Effect, that we were warned of fifty years ago, yet we chose to do nothing and now it is too damned late. All the spending on firefighters is irrelevant, nothing can contain the worse fires to come, as the Globe cooks.
    If you want to spend money, spend it on solar technology and turn off the coal-fired planet warmers !
    Cheers, G”)

  2. No pay for fire fightung volunteers risking their lives. And now in fact losing their lives. Morrison fiddles in Hawaii while Australia burns

  3. Volunteering to give your life to protect the community should now be recognised in a way that their wife and children never have to worry about their financial future. Wonder what Gladys will do about that?

  4. Where’s the army? Why is a disaster of this scale being left to volunteer services in the first place? What is the government’s strategic plan to put the fires out? Why does SCOMO think saying sorry and showing empathy cuts it?! Empathy won’t put the fires out!

  5. Budget cuts for the fire fighters, while the Defence Budget gets a 2Billion increase.36 Billion dollars for defence in the 2018-2019 federal budget. 38 billion for the 2019-2020 Defence budget. The total budget is more than 100 million every day or 4.3 million dollars per hour, 24/7. Scumo’s pledge of 11 million (never did hear where or what it went for) represents less than 3 hours in the defence budget. There are 8760 hours in a year.

  6. We have known what was threatening the earth
    from the 1970s. Most people didn’t listen then &
    many are still not listening now [just read The
    Australian newspaper & its other holdings]. We
    will, I expect, need to take the future into our
    own hands [& I’m not going to list all the ‘things’
    that need doing or are partly done]. Common
    sense must take over from all governments’
    inaction. I refuse to be quiet & ‘go down with
    the ship’.

  7. I am a fireman who was in Bargo on the day that this unfortunate incident happened. I wasn’t directly around the area, but waking up to get an email that two fireys died on the day I was there just a little further away was heartbreaking. Even worse, they were VOLUNTEERS with young families ahead of them. I’m sorry to all the people, fellow firefighters, and families who were affected by this loss.

    In light of this, let’s all be rational. Taking our anger out on SCOMO isn’t going to solve the problem. I agree his timing for his holidays were poor taste. And yes, I found his remarks about volunteer firefighters “wanting to be there’ and all, quite dismissive and ignorant of the actual situation we’re facing regarding resources, compensation for time off work, money for equipment coming out of our own pockets, etc.
    However, this is nothing compared to those blaming the fires on climate change and global warming, who are behaving worse than brats having tantrums because they didn’t get an Xbox. If this is such a big emergency, go after China and India instead, who are the biggest emitters of pollution and CO2 in the world. Australia only contributes a maximum of 1-2% to all that, so I think ScoMo is doing the right thing by ignoring these one-trick activists.

    The problem started ages ago, thanks to bad land and water management. We’re seeing MASSIVE fuel loads on the ground, and so if there is even a small ignition source such as a spark, it spreads very quickly and the whole thing goes haywire. Too many “greenies” stopping hazard reductions, and the layers of bureaucracy needed to wade through just to get a backburn in place to counter a LIVE WILDFIRE is just stupid.
    It’s simple primary school fire science: you need fuel, oxygen and heat for fire. Get rid of the fuel, you don’t get a fire in the first place. But nope, let’s have silly “climate emergency” meetings instead.

    • I suggest ‘Firey’,
      You should take note of that old saying,
      “It is better to say nothing and be thought an idiot, than to open your mouth and confirm it !”
      ‘Australia only contributes a maximum of 1-2%’ rubbish !….. and besides that where do you think China and India are getting all that coal ? That’s right ! your mate SCUMO, the Coal King, and Australia is responsible for that too .
      If you don’t realise this IS a ‘big emergency’ and as you obviously have no understanding of the processes causing it, then I don’t believe are a firey and suspect you are merely a national party stooge. Who else could be that ignorant ? Perhaps you would benefit if you payed a little attention to the grown-ups, such as Stefanie for instance .

  8. Morrison……now on home ground, has said that
    if you make a promise to your kids you keep it.
    However, if you make a promise to your country
    you don’t? Morrison, you have offended those
    you call affected [read harmed] by bush-fires,
    via your stupidity & ignorance. All fire fighters.
    The farmers. Those who voted for you & the
    ones who didn’t due to their knowledge on
    Climate Change & your ongoing love affair with
    coal, gas & oil plus the ‘giving away’ of water…
    the one thing that is true gold. Without water we
    die. I doubt you are need here at all. Why not
    take the entire parliament away with you, the
    ALP as well. Holiday together. We don’t need
    you.

  9. Ah… Firey – I do not believe what you are trying to
    paint. Full of holes, son. The use of ‘language’
    does not do justice to the mindset. Stooge away if
    that’s what you choose to do. We have -sadly- too
    many fools who prosper at the death of others &
    a ‘lost’ country.

  10. I haven’t heard of similar scale wildfires anywhere else in the world – these fires now even exceed what has occurred in recent years in North American East Coast and the Amazon – but even before these began around 15 countries had already declared a climate emergency – including the UK, France and Argentina – joined by 28 members of the EU + Bangladesh who also declared a climate emergency at the end of November. Plus 100s of state and local governments around the world.

    So far it’s only been a one degree of warming. On track to be the warmest year on record again. These fires and droughts won’t happen here every year sure, but it will be regular and next year is likely to be record floods and/or Category 5 cyclones and/or massive coastal erosion or even record cold and severe frost etc – all the higher probability consequences proven and predicted by climate scientists – and all adding a different type of threat to the biodiversity that sustains us.

    Now imagine two – three – four degrees…..
    Since you’re so good at maths, will impact of that be geometric or arithmetic? Still think it’s nothing to worry about?

    BTW – bullsh*t about fuel loads too. Only thing not burning this year is concrete

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