Member for Ballina Tamara Smith has this morning made a speech in Parliament, commending the brigades of the Rural Fire Service.
‘Today I formally acknowledge the Rural Fire Service captains and volunteers within the Ballina Electorate for their exemplary management of the emergency situations across the state and the Northern Rivers area this bushfire season,’ she said.
‘Specifically, I acknowledge the efforts of each of the Rural Fire Service brigades in the Ballina electorate: Alstonville; Billinudgel/Ocean Shores; Byron Bay; Federal; Lennox Head; Main Arm; Meerschaum Vale; Mullumbimby; Newrybar; Wardell and Wilsons Creek.’
Ms Smith says she experienced the work of volunteers when she joined in a door-knock with the RFS, police and the Salvation Army when the Mount Nardi fires threatened the communities of Main Arm, Upper Main Arm, Rosebank and Federal. ‘I saw first-hand the incredible work of our firefighters preparing communities for fire and evacuation.
Important to acknowledge the RFS
Ms Smith says it is important to acknowledge the service. ‘The Rural Fire Service is made up of men and women volunteers who risk their lives and give up their own time and time with their own families to protect their neighbours and other communities across the state,’ she said this morning after her parliamentary speech.
‘They are the very definition of heroism. That is why we saw so many people pay their respects at the State Memorial Service last weekend to the firefighters who lost their lives this summer heroically protecting communities – RFS volunteers Geoffrey Keaton, Andrew O’Dwyer and Samuel McPaul and three volunteer firefighters from the United States, Captain Ian McBeth, first officer Paul Hudson and flight engineer Rick DeMorgan Jr.
The days of volunteers shouldering the load are numbered
Ms Smith says that with a warmer planet, ever longer fire seasons and harsher fires, the days of volunteers shouldering the load of catastrophic fires are numbered. ‘Like the State of California, we will need to move to a huge coordinated state and federal approach to managing bushfires and we need to allocate far greater resources towards fire mitigation and technology for fighting fires that does not risk the lives of our volunteers.’
Ms Smith said this morning that there are things we can all do to help the RFS. ‘Volunteer or donate directly to your local brigade and leave your property if you are in a hazardous area when you are advised to,’ she said. ‘I was shocked last November to be standing on a ridge in Rosebank with a young family at their property with fires literally less than 1 km away and visible on the next ridge and the husband was not planning to leave the property – he said I will go when the fireys tell me to go.
‘This was a property on a narrow road with no other means of escape. This risks so many lives. Honestly though, I think all of us having watched the devastation across the east coast this fire season will not be so cavalier in the future.’
During her speech Ms Smith said she wanted to commend the personnel from the brigades who defended our communities as well as those adjacent and across the state. ‘Their management and response to the protracted bushfire season was exemplary and I acknowledge and thank each and every person within these brigades who helped keep ours and other communities safe.’