Fire & Rescue NSW

Commissioner’s Corner

Current National Terrorism Threat Level: Probable


Read online via the intranet at here

Wednesday 25 January 2017
Number 654


This issue of Commissioner’s Corner comes from Acting Commissioner Jim Hamilton.




Appointment of new Commissioner for Fire & Rescue NSW

Mr Paul Baxter has been selected to become the 22nd Commissioner of FRNSW following an international executive search and merit-based selection process. He will commence as our Commissioner in late April.

Mr Baxter is currently the National Commander and Chief Executive of the New Zealand Fire Service (NZFS), overseeing both it and the National Rural Fire Authority which jointly comprise 10,000 volunteers and 2,200 career staff serving at 650 fire stations nationally. The NZFS is recognised worldwide as a very capable and effective organisation largely due to Mr Baxter’s leadership and focus on workforce engagement and innovation.

Mr Baxter has more than 30 years of fire service experience, originally serving as a volunteer firefighter, then as a firefighter with the New Zealand Air Force. He became a fulltime firefighter with the NZFS and worked through the ranks until being appointed as National Commander a year after the devastating 2012 Christchurch earthquake.

Mr Baxter is highly qualified and experienced in firefighting, rescue, disaster management and senior command. In addition to his firefighting credentials, which included being deployed on an incident management team during the bushfires that we battled in NSW during Christmas in 2001, he was also a volunteer ambulance officer for many years. Recently, in partnership with St John Ambulance, he implemented a co-responder program between the fire service and ambulance service in New Zealand which is credited with saving many lives. For more information, see the intranet story.

On behalf of all FRNSW staff, I welcome Mr Baxter and look forward to working closely with him as he takes over leadership of our great organisation.


Handover to new Commissioner marks start of new chapter for FRNSW

Monday 16 January 2017 was a momentous day for FRNSW with a large crowd of dignitaries, staff and other emergency service representatives gathering to witness the historic transfer of command. At this ceremony, we fondly farewelled Commissioner Greg Mullins and paid tribute to his extraordinary achievements during 13 years at the helm. At the same time, we warmly welcomed our new Commissioner, Paul Baxter.

The NSW Governor David Hurley, David Elliott Minister for Emergency Services, and the heads of all the other NSW emergency services attended the ceremony, reflecting the high regard in which Commissioner Greg Mullins and FRNSW is held, and also the close cooperation between agencies in the emergency services sector.

Highlight of the ceremony was the formal handing over of the FRNSW banner to Mr Baxter, symbolising the transfer of command. In addition, Mr Baxter was presented with the Commissioner’s black helmet, a familiar sight at major incidents, and Torning’s trumpet, which was used in our fire service’s very early days to shout orders on the fireground.

Firefighters from City of Sydney, Leichhardt, Gladesville, Marrickville and Randwick Stations provided a parade and three Maori elders performed a traditional ceremony to mark the occasion. At the ceremony’s conclusion, Commissioner Mullins and his wife Erris were driven away in the historic 1929 Ahrens Fox fire appliance provided by the Museum of Fire. For more details, see the intranet story.


Changes in State Parliament

After 10 years in public life, three years as Treasurer and three years as Premier, last week NSW Premier Mike Baird announced that he was quitting politics for personal reasons. Mr Baird had been Premier of NSW since April 2014, taking over after Barry O'Farrell's resignation.

On Monday this week, Gladys Berejeklian was elected unopposed as the new Premier replacing Mike Baird. Ms Berejeklian has been in Parliament for 14 years, during which time she has served as Minister and Treasurer. John Barilaro is the new Deputy Premier and Dominic Perrottet the new Deputy Liberal Leader. It is expected that the new Cabinet will be announced shortly.


Victorian firefighters assist following Melbourne CBD tragedy

I, along with all FRNSW personnel, were filled with a sense of horror and sadness at last Friday’s event when a rampaging driver deliberately drove down Melbourne’s Bourke St Mall, injuring dozens of people and killing five. This tragedy demonstrated the strength and resolve of the Australian community and the response of Police and emergency services.

On behalf of FRNSW I have contacted Craig Lapsley, Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner, offering condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. I also commended the actions of emergency services personnel who responded to this distressing incident and provided medical assistance to numerous innocent victims at their time of greatest need.


Recruit graduation increasing workforce diversity

On 15 December, we welcomed 12 women and 12 men into the ranks of FRNSW at a special recruit graduation ceremony at the State Training College in Alexandria. For the very first time, women made up 50% of our graduating class. The class is the result of Commissioner Greg Mullins’s ‘Pledge for Parity’ and subsequent changes to FRNSW’s highly competitive recruitment process implemented earlier last year. The changes to the process have provided a level playing field for intelligent, fit, healthy and community-minded men and women to join the permanent firefighter ranks. For more details, see the intranet story.

I congratulate all the new recruits and I’m confident that each of them will uphold the high standards of integrity, courage and professionalism expected of a FRNSW firefighter.


Field Operations features in FRNSW Corporate Plan Video Review Series

I’m pleased to release today the latest episode in the Corporate Plan Review Video Series which features Field Operations and which I presented in my role as Deputy Commissioner, Field Operations. It celebrates FRNSW’s achievements in Field Operations since 2013, which are considerable, and focusses on our continued aim of achieving operational excellence.

The 2013–17 Corporate Plan has been essential in giving direction to FRNSW to maintain world class emergency services, enhance community engagement and continuously improve processes, performance and outcomes delivered. FRNSW has moved forward decisively over the last three years providing exceptional service to the people of NSW. To view the video, click on:


Culture and values

You may have seen an article which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on 22 January relating to historical allegations of bullying and harassment within FRNSW. Whilst it is acknowledged that we have experienced issues in the past, these allegations relate to legacy historical incidents. They are certainly not reflective of the great work undertaken by us all over the past few years to reinforce the positive aspects of our culture and values. There is a zero tolerance policy within the organisation for any form of bullying, harassment or discrimination. Since 2010, we have implemented a range of reforms with external oversight where a number of allegations were extensively investigated and addressed by FRNSW as well as police and other independent bodies. FRNSW fully cooperated with these external inquiries and has worked hard to implement recommended reforms including streamlining and improving the management of complaints and misconduct, training all FRNSW employees in bullying prevention, leadership training, introducing mandatory reporting of all workplace complaints, and updating its “Preventing and Managing Workplace Bullying and Harassment” policy.

Our recruitment policies, including 50/50 permanent firefighter recruitment, reflect the cultural journey of the organisation, reinforcing more tolerant, inclusive workplaces.

More recently the Minister engaged the retired head of the Industrial Relations Commission, Justice Roger Boland, to independently report on a small number of historical cases where people challenged the outcomes. The Minister advised that Justice Boland found no major failings on the part of FRNSW and, in the majority of matters, recommended no further action. Three matters that his Honour recommended for review are progressing.

Our initiatives have proven to be successful and strongly reflect on our values. In the 2016 NSW Government People Matters survey, FRNSW achieved a significant decrease in bullying and harassment matters compared to 2012 results, and we reported favourable results compared to other NSW emergency services. Whilst the downward trend in bullying and harassment is encouraging, we all must continue working to ensure a positive and inclusive workplace. Even one case is one too many so it is up to all of us to be vigilant.

Finally, I wish to remind all employees that should you experience or see any improper behaviour, you have a duty to come forward and report it. Like any large organisation, unfortunately there is the possibility of isolated pockets of bullying and harassment so I seek your help in stamping out any and all unacceptable behaviour. If you have a workplace complaint or concern, I strongly encourage you to contact the Professional Standards Branch on 9265 2826 or email


FRNSW participates in USAR coordination training in Singapore

As part of Australia’s and FRNSW commitment to the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) guidelines, Superintendents Darryl Dunbar and Greg Rankin attended the USAR Coordination Cell course which drew 23 participants from eight countries/organisations. The course, which Superintendent Warwick Kidd also attended as a facilitator, was held in Singapore 7-11 November.

Effective coordination of international USAR teams is crucial following the sudden onset of large-scale disasters. Improved coordination maximises the use of specialised resources and lessens loss of life by performing live rescues. The training gained at this course will enable the two officers, working with our team at Specialised Operations, to set up internal training courses for other FRNSW officers as part of USAR Incident Management Team modules. For more details, see the intranet story.


Final preparations for the move to Greenacre

The finishing touches are being added to our impressive new building as it’s now less than three weeks until we start relocating our Head Office services to 1 Amarina, Greenacre. Staff will move over two weekends commencing 10 February, with our Head Office facilities at 227 Elizabeth St vacated by 20 February.

Along with the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner’s Strategic Capability and Deputy Field Operations, Directorates and Branches located at 1 Amarina Headquarters will include the Directors of Metropolitan and Regional Operations and their administrative support staff, Director Operational Capability and the Capability Management Team, People & Culture, Finance, Information Technology, Governance & Legal Office, and Program Management Office. These areas will be joining the Logistics and Community Safety Directorates.

Staff are advised to visit the 1 Amarina intranet toolkit (Toolkits > Organisation Wide > Property > 1 Amarina) for information on updating mailing addresses. You can also find the latest information on the 1 Amarina move.


40th anniversary of the Granville train disaster

A Memorial Service was held on 18 January to mark the 40th anniversary of the Granville train disaster, and to remember those killed and injured in this country's worst rail disaster. This service was attended by around 250 survivors, loved ones, relatives, emergency service workers and dignitaries including the Prime Minister, Premier and NSW Governor. I attended the service along with some of our senior officers and firefighters, and I laid a wreath on behalf of FRNSW. The Granville disaster was one of the major reasons that the NSW Government decided in 1979 to change the Fire Brigades Act to enable our participation in non-fire rescues, and funded installation of rescue equipment on all frontline pumpers.


FRNSW staff donate food for charity

In December, the NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione threw down the challenge to emergency services across the State to ‘Stuff Your Chopper’ for charity – and FRNSW accepted. We collected a large amount of tinned and packaged goods for Foodbank, the largest hunger relief organisation in Australia, and all donations were distributed to assist those most in need. My sincere thanks to all those who donated food for this worthy cause.




8th Alarm factory fire in North Parramatta

Friday 13 January proved to be an ominous date for fire crews in western Sydney as they were responded at 2040 hours to a factory fire in Church Street, North Parramatta. Due to the number of calls, Comms took the initiative to upgrade the incident to a 2nd Alarm pending the arrival of 27 Parramatta and Duty Commander Parramatta.

Upon arrival crews were faced with a fire in a 2-level discount tyre premises that was 50% involved and was being fuelled by a large amount of tyres. The initial offensive mode strategy was quickly changed to defensive by SO 27 due to the inherent risk of structural collapse and reduced vision resulting from thick black smoke. DC Parramatta was quickly on the scene and upgraded the incident to a 6th Alarm and subsequently a 10th Alarm. The primary structural exposure was a smash repair workshop in Delta Sector, and as such, handlines and LP27 were used to implement this strategy. An additional four ladder platforms were used throughout the duration of this incident.

Firefighting operations were initially affected in Alpha Sector due to high voltage powerlines being impacted by the fire and power inside the complex remaining live. Within 40 minutes of the first crews arriving, there were numerous small structural collapses in the upper level. Hazmat crews monitored the smoke plume and water run-off, and exclusion zones were placed around the incident. By 2300 hours the wall in Bravo Sector had collapsed and shortly after midnight the TAF20 was employed in Charlie Sector to assist in knocking the fire down. The early use of CAFS appliances had a significant impact on the fire.

The HART was responded to place booms on the Parramatta River in order to contain run-off. USAR used laser markers to detect further structural collapse and an excavator was employed to remove concrete and rubble that was hampering access to hotspots. Ground monitors, hand lines and ladder platforms were used to eventually extinguish the fire which continued to re-ignite in tyre stacks located under the collapsed concrete slabs. Over 50 stations attended this incident as well as logistical support vehicles and equipment. The Stop message was sent at 1334 hours on Tuesday 17 October, four days after the first appliance arrived at the call.


Greater than 10th Alarm bushfire at Kurri Kurri

Just after 1400 hours on Wednesday 20 January, crews were responded to a bushfire near Government Road at Loxford. Within an hour of the first call, Comms were inundated with reports of several more fires starting in the area, all of which were rapidly spreading with the assistance of prevailing winds, high temperatures and low humidity. P349 Kurri Kurri was quickly on the scene and sent a Red message requesting a 3rd Alarm due to the dynamic nature of the fire. Within 20 minutes of Kurri Kurri’s Red message, 202 Aberdeen sent a Red message for extra resources to fight multiple spot fires in and around Kurri Kurri TAFE on McCleod Road. Nearby roads including the M15 Hunter Expressway were closed by Police during the duration of the blaze.

The constantly changing conditions kept crews busy as they raced from job to job in an effort to protect lives and property. In addition to residences in Kurri Kurri and Loxford being impacted, the fire also affected nearby Heddon Greta. It was estimated that approximately 650 hectares has been burnt out, however due to the exceptional efforts by FRNSW, the NSWRFS and water-bombing aircraft, residential property damage was restricted to outbuildings with only minor damage to some homes.

FRNSW continued to maintain a presence in the area following the fire with crews blacking out patches of fire activity in the area throughout the night and into Thursday. Strike teams were deployed from Sydney and Newcastle to relieve tired crews in the field. Cat 2 USAR operators were also deployed to carry out rapid dynamic assessments of structural properties and local strike teams were formed to use thermal imaging cameras to check for hotspots in eaves. This risk mitigation strategy was put in place as historically when bushfires passed through the area, burning embers settled in roof voids, igniting coal dust which had been deposited over many years.

A Section 44 was implemented later in the afternoon and continued for several days. FIRU, NSWRFS and Police investigated to determine the cause of the fires which at this time appears to be suspicious.




Q: When will the second round of MDTs be issued to the second appliances in stations? I have seen retained stations responding behind the main pump get all the way to a job only to find not a single pump onsite and finding out from the public that the job was finished five minutes before. Or while responding to the job, the appliance was sent a MDT message (seen on BOSS) but as they do not have this, they never received further information about multiple calls.

A: Every fire station has at least one MDT now with 386 devices installed into fire appliances, aerial platforms, ladders platforms, turntable ladders, heavy hazmat vehicles and SEVs. This has been very successful with crews having greater access to more accurate information than ever before. Operational Capability together with Metropolitan Operations, Regional Operations and Information Technology Directorates are currently planning the next stage of investment. Many of the options being considered are based on feedback from firefighters and more information on the chosen approach will be made available in 2017.




Commissioner's email:

Amanda Ibbotson, EA to Commissioner: 9265 2930

Ask the Commissioner:

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