Fire & Rescue NSW

Commissioner’s Corner

Current National Terrorism Threat Level: Probable


Read online via the intranet at here

Wednesday 22 February 2017
Number 656




Pay increases for Permanent and Retained Firefighters

I am pleased to advise that following representation from FRNSW, the NSW Government has made 2.5% pay increases available to FRNSW permanent and retained firefighters for each year, over the next three years.

On Thursday last week the Industrial Relations Commission confirmed that the pay increases would be paid effective from 17 February 2017, which means the 2.5% increase will appear in the next fortnightly pay. I would like to thank all those involved in gaining this well-deserved pay rise for firefighters.


Interim Commissioner meets with new Commissioner

I had the pleasure of meeting with Commissioner Baxter in Wellington, New Zealand yesterday. Together with Chief Superintendent Dave Felton, Commissioner’s Chief of Staff, we provided an overview of current matters and had an opportunity to generally discuss the strategic direction of FRNSW. Commissioner Baxter, who has also been busy dealing with bushfires in and around Christchurch and is extremely eager to commence his upcoming appointment in what he described as “an extremely progressive and well regarded fire service”.


Captain Gerry Cannon’s astonishing contribution

On Saturday night I was honoured to attend a special function in Tamworth to farewell FRNSW’s longest serving firefighter, Tamworth Captain Gerry Cannon. His retirement concludes an extraordinary personal contribution to the people of NSW. Gerry joined NSW Fire Brigades as an 18 year old in January 1957 and has been a member of 452 Tamworth Brigade for his whole career.

Throughout his career, Gerry has responded to thousands of fires, rescues, and hazardous materials incidents, and he performed hundreds of community safety activities. To mark his unparalleled 60 years of service, on 17 January Gerry was presented with an unprecedented 5th clasp to his FRNSW Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.

Thank you, Gerry, and your family which has supported you, for your long years of dedication. Enjoy a long, healthy and rewarding retirement. For more information and a video of Gerry’s story, see the intranet story.


International Women’s Day special guest speakers

FRNSW will host its annual International Women’s Day event at our brand new headquarters in Greenacre on Monday 6 March. As we embrace this year’s theme: "Be bold for change", I am pleased to announce we have secured a great selection of speakers from across FRNSW. We are also privileged to be joined by keynote speaker Assistant Commissioner Kaylene Jones from the State Emergency Services. Please join me and the Diversity Unit in Training Room 1 (the Lowther room) at 12.30pm for what promises to be an engaging event which builds on last year’s International Women’s Day ‘Pledge for Parity’.


A lasting legacy for Operational Communications

Last Friday we wished Superintendent Peter Levett well with a Guard of Honour as he left the Communications Centre at Alexandria for the last time to begin a period of long service leave before his retirement in November.

Supt Levett started his Brigade career at Pyrmont Fire Station 32 years ago, and worked his way up to the rank of Superintendent, gaining experience in a broad range of roles. He has been invaluable in Operational Communications over the last five years – in particular ensuring that some 37,000 response rules were successfully implemented into the ESCAD system. Peter was also instrumental in the restructure of the Operational Communications Centres for which he was awarded a Unit Commendation for Meritorious Service. Prior to Operational Communications, Peter spent four years as Manager Operational Personnel and was responsible for implementing SAM to automate the daily provision of operational staff.

Peter is now going off to the next phase in his life, but will always be a member of our FRNSW family. I thank Peter and his wife Coral for their many years of outstanding service and support and wish him a long and happy retirement.


FRNSW and QFES strengthen cross-border fire response

Last Friday, FRNSW Northern Rivers Zone Commander, Superintendent Greg Lewis, and QFES Chief Superintendent, Brad Commens met at Point Danger, Coolangatta to mark the signing of a new formal agreement between the two agencies.

The new Memorandum of Understanding and Mutual Aid Agreement, which formalises an arrangement already in place, allows resources from both NSW and QLD to be instantly mobilised across the border in response to major structural fires and other emergencies.

The Commanders were joined by crews from Tweed Heads and Bilinga fire stations representing the Tweed Coast-Coolangatta border communities. For more information, see the intranet story.


Brigade Kids Champion Competition to launch State-wide

Next month FRNSW will launch a new competition to help promote fire safety to young children. The State-wide Brigade Kids Champion Competition encourages kids in Kindergarten, Year 1 and Year 2 to submit a poster design that communicates one of three key fire safety messages. Together with a panel of judges, I will help select winners and runners up in each of the three age categories and one overall winner. As well as fantastic prizes (thanks to partners Xbox, Lego and Scholastic) for all winners and runners up, the overall winner will have their design turned into a poster to be used at every fire station on Open Day.

As knowing how to react properly to fire is so important, and particularly for youngsters, I ask that everyone in FRNSW really get behind it and promote it in their communities. Whether you’re conducting a FireED or other community engagement with your crew, have a child in K-2 or know a K-2 teacher, this is your chance to help teach kids how to be a Brigade Champion.

The Brigade Kids Champion Competition will run from 13 March to 23 April, with the winners announced on 4 May. For more information, see the intranet story.


Capt John Bevan named Citizen of the Year

Congratulations to Captain John Bevan of 367 Stn Lightning Ridge on being named Walgett Shire Council’s Citizen of the Year at its Australia Day awards. The recognition was for more than 30 years of service by John to the communities of Lightning Ridge and Walgett.

FRNSW is held in high regard throughout the State, but it is always special when a community confers its unique recognition. John is also regarded highly in RW1 Zone for the high level of training and management of the Lightning Ridge crew and its consistent fine record of recruitment and retention, often a problem in isolated areas.

It was pleasing to learn that John first got interested in the possibility of being a firefighter when he visited 048 Stn Mortdale as a 12-year-old. Hopefully we will have more begin a similar interest at this year’s Open Day on 20 May.


Second ‘parity’ class continues to shape our history

On 21 February FRNSW’s second 50/50 recruit class commenced 13 weeks of intensive training at the State Training College. The class of 12 female and 13 male recruits will continue FRNSW’s 2016 Pledge for Parity. Class 1/2017 includes five ex-retained firefighters, an ambulance officer, former military personnel, tradies, teachers, a tour guide, twin brothers and FRNSW’s first female Indigenous permanent firefighter recruits.


More secure Password Policy being rolled out

A more stringent Password Policy is now being implemented throughout FRNSW to ensure our information assets are protected from malicious attack. It will be progressively rolled out between 28 February and 29 May. As specific areas in FRNSW become affected, they will be notified of the changes and how staff will be affected.

Passwords will now be required to be renewed every six months. As they are about to expire, individuals will be notified, with a reminder of the required complexity standard.

It should be noted that operational staff with the rank of Inspector and below are unaffected – unless they do decide to update their passwords. They then must meet the new complexity criteria. For more information, see Commissioner’s Orders 2017/03 and the intranet story here.


Got great incident photos? Send them to the Media Unit

They say a picture tells a thousand words and nothing could be more true in our 24hr-news, social-media focused world. One of the best ways for FRNSW to tell the community what we’re doing is by sharing images and video on our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. FRNSW posts are often shared by major news organisations, increasing our reach and coverage exponentially. While you should never give priority to taking photographs over your operational responsibilities, if you have an opportunity to safely capture stills pictures or video please send it, as soon as practically possible, to


New headquarters open for business

I am pleased to announce our new headquarters at 1 Amarina, Greenacre is now open for business. The move to our new building and transition to activity based working has run very smoothly and I would like to thank the 1 Amarina project team for their hard work and dedication on this momentous project. I would also like to thank the leaders, managers and all staff for embracing this change with such positivity and dedication. There has been such a great vibe in our new headquarters. I’ve been particularly impressed to see employees at all levels of the organisation moving around to work in the various work spaces, whether it be a quiet area, collaborative zone or even the coffee shop, No. 9 Station. I encourage all staff to visit the new headquarters and see our new way of working or join us for a coffee in the café.


CFU eLearning package goes live

A specially designed eLearning package for CFU volunteers and FRNSW staff was recently launched by the Community Fire Unit section. New CFU members are now able to complete four theoretical modules online – ‘Bushfire and the Influencing Factors’, ‘Pre-Bushfire Season Preparation’, ‘During a Bushfire’ and ‘CFU Matters’ – to improve the on-boarding process. CFU volunteer access is through the CFU Members Portal, and for FRNSW it is via the Learning Hub.

The CFU eLearning modules can be completed by applicants in their own time over six months. When successfully completed, applicants must attend a practical training session. Current CFU members are also are strongly encouraged to view the CFU eLearning modules and refresh their technical knowledge. I also encourage all FRNSW personnel to view and complete the CFU eLearning package via the Learning Hub. It is a valuable source of information on what skills and knowledge we provide to CFU volunteers, and a handy tool to refresh your understanding of bushfire behaviour. For more information or to provide feedback, contact the CFU Team on 9895 4640 or




Charlotte Bay excavator driver rescued from dam

At 1440hrs on Tuesday 7 February the crew from 295 Forster were called to reports of a man trapped under an excavator that had rolled down an embankment and overturned in Kookie Avenue, Charlotte Bay.

Police and Paramedics were already on scene as the crew from Forster arrived and were confronted with a large excavator on its side and partly submerged in a shallow muddy dam. They were amazed to notice the head of the trapped driver sticking out from the muddy water, with just his mouth and nose barely above the water level. Quick decisions had to be made and it was determined that rather than lifting the excavator off the trapped driver, firefighters would quickly dig under the trapped driver to provide room for him to be pulled clear of the submerged vehicle’s roll bar which was pinning the driver down.

Firefighters immediately set about stabilising the excavator to prevent further movement whilst other firefighters worked for around 30 minutes in waste deep muddy water and used their hands to excavate around the driver. RFS crews assisted by pumping water from the dam in attempt to lower the water level. He was removed safely and handed over to Paramedics who accompanied him in the Westpac Rescue Hospital to the John Hunter Hospital suffering hypothermia and shock. Captain Paul Langley described how the trapped driver had managed to keep his head just above the water by arching his back and was adamant that he would not have survived much longer if help had not arrived when it did. Fortunately, a neighbour some 500 metres away had heard the driver’s desperate calls for help and alerted emergency services.

The incident attracted worldwide media attention, including a news item on BBC Radio 5 with attending emergency workers being praised for their efforts in saving the driver’s life. Well done to the Forster firefighters for working quickly in difficult circumstances. For more details and photos see the intranet story.


Orange firefighters battle car wrecking yard fire in heatwave

A deliberately lit grass fire in Orange became more than just a grass fire when it spread to a car wrecking yard and impacted an adjoining RSPCA facility.

Crews from 412 Orange received the original call at 1356hrs on Saturday 11 February. They responded to reports of a grass fire adjacent to the RSPCA facility on William Street in Orange, but by the time they arrived on scene the fire had spread to an adjoining car wrecking yard with initially six cars involved in fire.

Additional crews, including support from the RFS were immediately dispatched as the fire quickly escalated and spread to 130 vehicles in the wrecking yard. Huge volumes of thick black smoke were visible across the city as a nearby high voltage electrical transformer also became involved. The situation deteriorated further as local water supplies became overrun. Firefighters had to work in heatwave conditions as additional crews from Bathurst were called in to assist in the defensive firefighting operation. RFS tankers supplied water until a water relay was established from surrounding streets.

The fire rapidly spread through the wrecking yard and numerous tyres and several exploding LP gas cylinders hampered operations. The adjoining RSPCA shelter soon came under threat and the decision was made to evacuate as many animals as possible. Around 240 animals including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits and three sheep were safely evacuated by firefighters, RSPCA staff and members of the public.

It took crews close to three hours to contain and extinguish both the original grass fire and the wrecking yard fire. Due to excellent defensive firefighting strategies, the RSPCA building escaped with only minor damage. Congratulations to all attending firefighters for a great effort, particularly given the heatwave conditions.

Police were called to investigate reports that a group of young people were seen walking near the grass area where the fire was reported as originally starting. A 13-year-old boy was subsequently arrested by Police and charged with lighting the fire.


FRNSW involved in massive Sydney storm recovery operations

On Saturday 18 February, a series of storm cells swept across the Sydney suburbs resulting in extensive hail damage to thousands of residential and commercial buildings and numerous vehicles across Sydney. By Sunday morning, the State Emergency Service (SES) advised they had taken approximately 1,600 calls for assistance with occupants reporting leaking and damaged roofs. The highest concentration of damage appears to have occurred in the Baulkham Hills, Ku-ring-gai and Warringah Pittwater regions of Sydney.

Due to the volume of calls, the SES requested assistance from FRNSW with three Strike Teams formed and a Liaison Officer deployed to the SES headquarters at Baulkham Hills on Saturday. Rescue pumper 71 attended a retirement village in Old Glenhaven Road where around 80 villas had suffered roof damage and leaking roofs with two inhabitable due to the level of damage.

On Sunday, the SES again requested the assistance of FRNSW and the RFS to help in the large storm recovery process. FRNSW deployed its Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) capability and rapid assessments were completed across the Baulkham Hills area revealing those areas most severely impacted. Given our aerial appliance capability and roof work training, FRNSW has been tasked with providing temporary roof repair and tarping to numerous properties of two levels and above. On Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, FRNSW provided five strike teams each day to provide assistance in the northwest suburbs of Sydney. At the time of writing, several hundred repair tasks have been successfully completed by FRNSW.


A fortnight of significant bushfire activity

Over the past two weeks FRNSW has responded to many significant bushfire incidents both within and outside of our fire districts. Our crews have supported the RFS during a period of fire activity that the State has not seen for some time.

Many of these significant bushfire incidents have threatened the life and property of our communities. FRNSW has answered the call with support from both an initial response of local resources and strategically placed Strike Teams throughout the State. Our Regional and Metropolitan Commands have provided incident management support in the form of Liaison Officers and FRNSW Commanders who assisted in providing a coordinated approach to the command and coordination function. The FRNSW Strategic Operations Centre (SOC) and Bushfire Incident Control Centre (BICC) have provided support and intelligence to the Commands in conjunction with Operational Logistics and Operational Staffing.

Some of the more significant fires have included the Carwoola Fire in the Queanbeyan-Palerang LGA, Sir Ivan Fire in the Warrumbungle LGA, Papinburra Rd Fire in the Port Macquarie-Hastings LGA, Kains Flat Fire in the Mid Western LGA, Boggabri Fire in the Narribri LGA, Red Hill Road at Limekilns near Bathurst and Fig Tree Hill Drive at Lennox Head.

The RFS has calculated the losses of these recent fires at a total of 56 houses, two community buildings and 198 outbuildings destroyed. Fortunately there has been no loss of life as a direct result of these fires. To date, FRNSW has responded to 989 bush or grass incidents this year.




Q: Sir, I have heard that there is a problem with new boots, and several of them have been removed because of zipper issues.

A: The Magnum Vulcan Structure firefighting boot was made available from November last year. Since then more than 300 pairs of boots have been delivered to operational firefighters. Of those 300 pairs there have been six reported malfunctions concerned with the zippers on the boot. Three of those were in respect to the tab to pull up the zippers coming off. The other three were incidents where the join in the middle of the zipper split open. None of these resulted in any injuries as the structure of the boot remained intact but a section of the zipper opened.

However, six incidents was too many to accept as the quality we expect from our PPC. In agreement with the manufacturer, a stronger more durable zipper (No 8 YKK) has been sourced and will be used to replace the current (No 5 YKK) zipper. This will eliminate both these problems.

All those who have already received the Magnum Vulcan boot have been sent the new No 8 zipper to fit into their boots and instructions to return the No 5 zipper to Procurement at Greenacre. All boots in stock now have the No 8 zippers added and all future boots supplied from the manufacturer will come with No 8 zippers as part of the standard boot assembly.




Commissioner's email:

Amanda Ibbotson, EA to the Commissioner: 9265 2930

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