Fire & Rescue NSW

Commissioner’s Corner

Current National Terrorism Threat Level: Probable


Read online via the intranet at here

Wednesday 8 March 2017
Number 657




“Brave and professional” firefighters win Police awards

My sincerest congratulations to seven of our firefighters who have received Commander’s Commendations from the NSW Police Crime Command, for their “bravery and professionalism.” The awards were made for their actions in the Police’s Strike Force Baracchi, which investigated the circumstances surrounding the fire and explosion at a Rozelle convenience store in 2014. Three people died and three were injured.

NSW Police State Crime Commander, Assistant Commissioner Mark Jenkins’ Commendations were made to Station Officer Bradley Giersch of 042 Ryde, Station Officer Adam Standfield of 039 Randwick, Senior Firefighter Chris Lyons, Senior Firefighter Mark Thompson and Firefighter Warren Whillier all of 01 City of Sydney, Firefighter Dane Bastable 018 Glebe Qualified Firefighter Adrian Child 038 Pyrmont. For more details see the intranet story.


Minister visits fire stations

Our Minister, the Hon. Troy Grant MP, Minister for Emergency Services, has been very busy over the past weeks visiting fire stations and handing over new trucks. Recent visits include 26 Mascot, 38 Pyrmont, 41 Smithfield, 277 Dapto, 241 Bulli and 056 Matraville.

The Minister, who has a background with emergency services, is eager to engage with firefighters and listen and learn more about FRNSW.


Capability roadmaps launched to provide strategic direction

Capability roadmaps provide strategic direction and support FRNSW operations in a changing environment. They are developed through consultation across all areas of the organisation. The Rescue Roadmap was launched in 2015 and has already delivered on some of the projects outlined in the 2015/16 period. The Incident Management, Hazmat and Firefighting roadmaps were recently released and outline objectives to 2021.

The Incident Management Roadmap brings together a review of our current capability and the drivers for change over the coming five years, including climate change, social media, technology for firefighters and mobile apps.

The Hazmat Roadmap aims to increase our capability, with a particular emphasis on training, developing partnerships with industry and other agencies, and keeping up with emerging worldwide trends.

The Firefighting Roadmap breaks the core functions of firefighting into six separate but intertwined areas, beginning with structure fires and increasing in complexity. The roadmap presents an integrated whole of agency plan for maintaining and improving firefighting capability over the next five years.


Tests begin of residential sprinkler systems

FRNSW has begun tests of two types of residential sprinkler systems, prompted by the death of a young woman and serious injury of another who leapt from a fifth-floor Bankstown apartment to escape a fire in September 2012. The building did not have sprinklers. At the resulting inquest, the Coroner’s recommendations canvassed sprinkler systems in multi-residential buildings.

A typical apartment layout like the Bankstown unit in which the fire broke out is being used by FRNSW in a series of 10 weekly research tests at the CSIRO’s fire safety services facility at North Ryde. The tests are a side by side comparison of two types of sprinkler systems to determine the efficacy of one against the other. For more information, see the intranet story.


FRNSW Women’s Network launched on International Women’s Day

On Monday 6 March, International Women’s Day 2017 was fittingly marked by the launch of FRNSW’s Women’s Network. The network aims to connect women across the organisation, enabling new and experienced staff to share information, help improve service delivery and culture and support each other.

At the International Women’s Day function, it was my pleasure to welcome our guest speakers, guests and staff to our new headquarters, but I have to say it was shameful to note that the gender gap is not expected to close until 2186 – that’s almost 170 years away.

Women and Firefighting Australia (WAFA) Board member Michelle Engelsman, SO Sally Foote of 257 Coffs Harbour and NSW State Emergency Services Assistant Commissioner Kaylene Jones each spoke of their own wealth of experiences. A key theme was how they have overcome ingrained attitudes against women in the workplace, and balanced their family lives and careers. FRNSW Assistant Commissioner Janet Ruecroft officially launched the FRNSW Women’s Network before Diversity Coordinator Sonja Braidner praised the courage, tenacity and resilience of women.

Thank you to all the speakers and to the Diversity Unit for ensuring another successful International Women’s Day event.


New Director Governance and Legal Office

This month, Catherine O’Mallon was appointed to the position of Director Governance & Legal Office. She brings extensive experience and knowledge to this position. Catherine was formerly Assistant Director Audit & Risk with Transport for NSW. Prior to this, she served as Manager Corporate Governance with the City of Sydney Council; and before that, worked in State and local government both in NSW and Victoria in the areas of governance, risk management and policy development.

Catherine is returning to FRNSW, having worked with many of you on a variety of initiatives. We welcome Catherine back and look forward to working with her again.


Kootingal RFS clear winners in Uralla

Over the past weekend, 475 Uralla played host to the first Regional Firefighter Championships for 2017. Acting Deputy Commissioner Gerry Byrne and I were delighted to attend these championships at Hampden Park, which saw more than 100 firefighters from 25 teams from as far afield as Broken Hill and Bega compete in 11 events. At the end of day 1, Kootingal RFS led by almost 600 points with Bega and Armidale in second and third place. Following a hotly contested second day, the top places remained the same with Kootingal clear winners on 1,616 points, Bega second on 873 and Armidale third with 702 points. The Armidale Brigade were also awarded the Director’s Sportsmanship and Safety Award. Congratulations to all competitors and to the Uralla Brigade for a fantastic display of skill and team spirit.


Exercising the black dog on the Larapinta Trail

It is proven that regular exercise has benefits not only for your physical wellbeing but also your mental health. With that in mind, two firefighters from Metro West have taken things even further and are on a mission to raise money and awareness for the Black Dog Institute to help research and support for PTSD, anxiety and depression.

SF Sarah Nicholas from 71 Castle Hill and SF Terry Nicholas from 94 Kellyville are planning to walk 223km along the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory over three weeks while carrying everything they need on their backs. Sarah and Terry hope that the trek, which starts on 21 April, will help other firefighters and members of the community realise that they are not alone and highlight ways in which they can access support. They are kicking off fundraising with a trivia night at the Castle Hill Bowling Club on Sunday 2 April.

FRNSW has a strong partnership with the Black Dog Institute and with the assistance of Dr Sam Harvey and his team, has implemented several evidence-based programs, including RESPECT and FITMIND. For more information about Sarah and Terry’s challenge and the health and wellbeing resources available to you, see the intranet story.


Get involved in the NSW Seniors Festival

The NSW Seniors Festival, formerly NSW Seniors Week, runs from 3–12 March with hundreds of events happening State-wide. With the 2017 theme of ‘let’s do more together’, I encourage you to get involved. Many fire stations are already attending local community events to promote the importance of home fire safety and engage with this at-risk group. Sadly, older people are overrepresented in fire injury and fatality statistics with 1 in 2 fire deaths in the last five years aged 65 and over.

For more information about the NSW Seniors Festival or to find an event in your station area, visit If you require assistance with an event, contact the Community Engagement Unit at or go to the Community Safety Toolkits on the intranet to learn more about Senior Ed resources. To celebrate this year’s Seniors Festival, FRNSW’s Community Engagement Unit is providing all stations with updated Senior Ed materials including a DVD and fire engine USB to attach to station keys.


Dancing for diversity at Mardi Gras

FRNSW has again shown its commitment to inclusion with its 12th year of participation in Sydney’s Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade, on Saturday 4 March.

Although the weather wasn’t the best, our contingent of 100 firefighters, admin staff, trades and CFU members were cheered on by an estimated 300,000 people. Our group, including Deputy Commissioner Graeme Finney and Assistant Commissioner Mark Whybro, started the evening at City of Sydney Fire Station, where preparations included a 45-minute rehearsal in the gym.

This year FRNSW participants danced to a routine and playlist specially choreographed by Matt Hourigan, Adam Haynes and Melissa Hayes from Sydney Youth Musical Theatre (SYMT). My sincere thanks to SYMT Theatre President, FRNSW Occupational Health Advisor Chrissy Strickland and all staff involved behind the scenes in making our Mardi Gras parade one of the best ever.


2017 Open Day – the countdown begins

This year’s Open Day will be held on Saturday 20 May (D Platoon at permanent stations). Open Day provides a great opportunity for the public to see what FRNSW do, meet their firefighters and learn more about fire safety in the home.

2016 has been touted as one of the most successful Open Day’s ever with more than 120,000 members of the public visiting the participating 335 fire stations. This year, Open Day will follow the same formula with Community Engagement (CEU) and Media & Communications (MCU) working together to provide the tools and information to make your station’s day a success. If your station does NOT want to participate in Open Day for 2017, please ensure you email and advise

With Open Day crowds growing every year, admin staff are encouraged to contact their local station to offer an extra pair of hands if you have a couple of hours to spare. For more information and resources see the intranet story.


Stat decs for carer’s leave applications by Permanent Firefighters

Absences for carer’s leave are debited in hours (not shifts) and should only be taken for the time that you are required to provide care. Permanent Firefighters are reminded that when submitting a statutory declaration in support of a carer’s leave application, it must have been signed in front of an authorised witness. In NSW, an authorised witness is a Justice of the Peace, Australian legal practitioner (solicitor/barrister), or any person authorised to administer an oath pursuant to the NSW Oaths Act 1900. This requirement differs to the Commonwealth statutory declaration procedures which allow other types of people to witness statutory declarations. Statutory declarations are subject to review and will not support a claim for carer's leave if they are incorrectly completed. Commissioner’s Orders 2012/26 contains the pro-forma statutory declaration to be used exclusively for carer’s leave applications. Thank you for your cooperation with this requirement.


Special guest speaker for Harmony Day

Harmony Day is a national celebration of our cultural diversity – a day of cultural respect for everyone who calls Australia home. Held every year on 21 March, it coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

FRNSW actively participates in Harmony Day in support of our growing diverse community. This year we are fortunate to be joined by the Executive Director of the  Community Migrant Resource Centre, Melissa Monterio, as a guest speaker at our Greenacre headquarters on Tuesday 21 March at 9.30am. Ms Monterio has managed the Community Migrant Resource Centre, a not for profit community organisation based in Parramatta providing settlement services to refugees and humanitarian entrants, for the past 15 years.

All are welcome to attend, in addition if there is a Harmony Day event close to your station, I encourage you to make contact with the organisers and attend. For more information visit


A day of family fun at the Penrith Working Truck Show

Firefighters and many volunteer supporters will come together at the Museum of Fire on Sunday 19 March to stage the 30th annual Working Truck Show. Entry includes a huge selection of free rides, free fairy floss, free face painting and live entertainment, including country rocks stars Adam Harvey, Beccy Cole and many more. Adult tickets are $35, including free entry for up to three children. Concession tickets are $25 (single person entry only). All rides, entertainment, activities and exhibits inside the show are free, including entry to the Museum of Fire.

As a not for profit registered charity, our heritage partner relies on this major annual fundraiser to continue to care for and share our fire service history and to educate families about fire safety. All staff are encouraged to support the museum and head to Penrith for what is sure to be a fun community event. The museum is located beside Penrith Railway Station and there is plenty of free parking on site. For more information visit


Have you considered a Churchill Fellowship?

Applications for Churchill Fellowships are now being accepted and will close on 28 April 2017. Fellowships, valued at around $26,000, provide airfares and up to eight weeks overseas living allowance to enable research projects of benefit to the Australian community.

There are no prescribed qualifications, academic or otherwise. Selection is based on merit of the research project, combined with the applicant's past achievements or a demonstrated ability for future achievement. To be successful, a proposed research project must be able to demonstrate a benefit to the wider Australian community (not just an internal benefit to FRNSW).

FRNSW employees from all areas of the department, including firefighters, administrative and trade staff may apply for a Fellowship in relation to any area of study whether fire and rescue industry related or not.

Upon completion of travel a Fellow is required to submit an extensive report of findings to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. If you have been granted leave on full pay for a fire industry related research project then a copy of the report must also be submitted to FRNSW.

Churchill Fellowships are highly competitive and if anyone would like to discuss the application process further please contact Superintendent Ian Krimmer, President of the NSW Churchill Fellows Association on 9265 2948. For more information visit




12th Alarm factory fire at Chullora

At 0921hrs on Thursday 23 February 2017, Fire Comms received the first of many Triple Zero calls to what was to become one of the state’s largest structure fires for quite some time. A fire that had commenced in a waste transfer and disposal facility in Muir Road at Chullora and as soon as 62 Bankstown left their station they could already see the huge plume of smoke that was quickly expanding as the fire took hold. They initially called for a 2nd alarm response whilst enroute and when they arrived only 5 minutes later the size of the developing situation became quickly apparent and they immediately raised the response level to a 5th Alarm.

Fortunately, the site management were quickly able to confirm that everyone was accounted for and arriving crews could concentrate on firefighting activities. A staging area was established in the front carpark and 70mm hose lines were immediately deployed in Sectors Bravo and Delta in a defensive strategy.

It quickly became obvious that the factory complex had a massive fuel loading of paper, carboard, plastics and carpeting and the 100m x 70m complex became fully involved. There were fears that LPG cylinders inside, together with a large diesel fuel storage tank and an electrical high voltage kiosk would become involved. A nearby factory also came under threat and the response was raised to an 8th Alarm.

Water supplies soon became a major issue as the internal water storage facility became exhausted. The Hytrans was responded and an extensive water relay was established from surrounding streets with the response being raised to a 10th Alarm to provide the additional resources required. Multiple streets around the factory complex, including Brunker Road, Rookwood Road and several lanes of the Hume Highway were closed to enable hose lines to be stretched from surrounding water mains.

When I arrived on site, parts of the factory roof had collapsed and several external walls had become unstable requiring a collapse zone to be established around the perimeter of the building. The huge pall of smoke was visible across the entire metropolitan area and both the nearby Bankstown Airport, together with Sydney Airport were placed on alert for the massive smoke haze. The RPAS (drones) and pilot were also responded to the scene to assist in providing aerial surveillance of the huge factory area.

The TAF20 (firefighting robot) together with bulk foam supples were delivered to the site and played a major role in bringing the fire under control. Hazmat crews were kept busy for several days monitoring the smoke plume and water run-off. Fortunately, the factory was located within an industrial area and there was no need for any major evacuations throughout the lengthy operations although several health warnings were issued during the operation advising nearby residents to close their windows and doors.

It wasn’t until 2012hrs, nearly 11 hours later, that crews could report that the fire was finally contained although numerous hot spots were still active throughout the complex. A 4th Alarm fire duty was maintained overnight and an excavator was brought in the following morning to begin the task of pulling apart the smouldering mass of waste debris. Crews were to remain on scene for a further 6 days until the final stop message was sent the following week at 1223hrs on Wednesday1 March.

The fire highlighted the advances we have seen in recent years with many of our latest technologies all being deployed to the one fireground. This was the first major incident in our history where we have simultaneously deployed (and used) our new Mobile Command Centre (MCC), Hytrans, TAF20, RPAS and CAFS Pumpers.

I wish to extend my congratulations to the many hundreds of firefighters and officers who attended the lengthy incident. Although the factory complex was destroyed, the fire was contained to the original site and given the almost heat wave conditions on the first day of the fire I was impressed with the work of all firefighters involved with only one firefighter sustaining a minor injury during the protracted incident.



5th Alarm fire at Katoomba RSL

At 1332hrs on Friday 25 February, 343 Katoomba and 361 Leura were responded to reports of a fire at the Katoomba RSL Club in Lurline Street, Katoomba. 343 Katoomba were quickly on scene within 7 minutes and reported that large quantities of smoke was issuing from the rear of the club building. Staff reported that all 40 staff members and guests had been evacuated quickly and safely from the building. It appears the fire may had started in the kitchen area and quickly spread to the roof area.

The response was soon raised to a 5th Alarm as the fire took hold of the rear half of the single level structure. An adjoining residential building came under threat as crews deployed protective sprays to protect the exposures. The nearby Katoomba Primary School was placed into lock down with school staff instructed to keep windows shut and children indoors to avoid exposure to smoke.

Two aerials were deployed at the front and rear of the building as the surrounding streets were closed down. One large wall in Sector A threatened to collapse and crews were withdrawn to a safe distance. At the height of the fire an electrical storm impacted the area and firefighters had to retract the two aerial appliances for fear that they may attract lightning strikes, however the storm quickly moved away and the aerial attack was able to recommence.

Within two hours, crews successfully brought the fire under control and reported that the rear 50% of the club had been destroyed by the fire. Being an RSL Club attention turned to retrieving historic memorabilia within the club premises. There were some initial concerns that the club had a display including World War 1 and 2 ordinance devices. The assistance of the Police Bomb Squad was sought to ensure that the armaments had been properly decommissioned before they could be removed from the structure. Several medals and other important historic paraphernalia were removed, although, sadly, many of the items were severely damaged by the fire.

A fire duty was maintained overnight and attended to several major flare ups. The site was finally handed over to Police at 1056hrs the following morning and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.




Q: There is talk that two of the recruit classes for 2017 have been cancelled due to a lack of potential female recruits, and the need to achieve parity. Is this the case?

A: No this is not the case. FRNSW is funded by the Government for a specific number of firefighters and planning for recruits to commence at the State Training College is estimated using historical trends of retirements and separations from our organisation. Currently the number of exits from both resignations and retirements is lower than normal trends. It may appear that many firefighters are happy with 24-hour shifts and are postponing their retirement.

I authorised for the first class of this year to be delayed and it commenced at the college on 21 February. It is anticipated by our workforce planning models that we will need an additional 40 recruits this year. If we get a larger number of retirements later in year we have the flexibility of adding another recruit class.




Commissioner's email:

Sandra Garcia, EA to Commissioner: 9265 2930

Ask the Commissioner:

To contribute a story, please contact the Media and Communications Unit: 9265 2907.