COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Members of the New England RFS endured a busy summer fighting fires right across the state. Photo: Supplied

COMMUNITY SPIRIT: Members of the New England RFS endured a busy summer fighting fires right across the state. Photo: Supplied

Rising from ashes: volunteer numbers spike after bushfire crisis

Northern Tablelands RFS record spike in volunteer numbers after summer's bushfire crisis

Community
Aa

Locals answer the call in wake of the summer's bushfire crisis.

Aa

THE state may have endured one of the most horrific bushfire seasons in memory, but some positives have come out of the experience.

One such positive is the spike in volunteer numbers for the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) across the state, particularly in the Northern Tablelands region.

The area was one of the hardest hit by fire in the state, yet more and more locals have put up their hand to help serve the community in the future.

New England RFS district co-ordinator Inspector Liz Ferris said she was amazed at the amount of people willing to serve their community.

"We have seen a major increase in volunteer numbers, which is great," Inspector Ferris said.

"A lot of them have been getting through the process and into training pretty quickly.

"There has certainly been an increase in community interest and we are very grateful for that."

Inspector Ferris said the influx of volunteers would not be possible without the support of many local employers.

"While our volunteers have done amazing job this past year or so, it is really important for us to bring in some fresh faces," she said.

"However, in saying that, we would not be able to have any volunteers at all if it weren't for their employers being understanding and supportive of them leaving work to help their community.

"Pretty much all of our volunteers work, so to have that level of support is crucial.

"The community has been so supportive throughout all of the toughest parts of the season and for that, we say a big heartfelt thank you."

Parkes MP Mark Coulton said while the COVID-19 pandemic had dominated headlines recently, it was more important than ever to have healthy volunteer numbers in the RFS.

"We are seeing people step up during the pandemic just as they did during the bushfire crisis," Mr Coulton said.

"Right across the board we saw people do what they could to help people who were doing it tough.

"It's what living in the country is all about and while the RFS is a state-funded organisation, the federal government is always happy to help out where required, which is what we saw during the summer."

Mr Coulton said he had seen volunteer numbers spike in various parts of his extensive electorate.

"I haven't heard too much out of the volunteer numbers from the South Australian side of things, because it is such a widespread and isolated area," he said.

"However, I have heard there has been strong recruitment in the northern part of the electorate around Moree, Boggabilla and Goondiwindi.

"It's really pleasing to see and certainly not unusual at all, because people in those areas are always more than willing to put their hand up and help their communities."

New England MP Barnaby Joyce extended his thanks to the region's volunteers, saying they were the backbone of the country.

"There are three types of people that make Australia up," Mr Joyce said.

"There's the people that throw papers out of the car window and they are always going to be with us.

"There's the people who will always complain about the people who throw papers out of the car window and you meet them all the time.

"Then you've got that special group that makes the nation, the people who pick up the papers that have been thrown out of the car window.

"The people who are enlisting to part of the RFS are paper picker uppers, they're the people who make our nation a strong place."

The story Rising from ashes: volunteer numbers spike after bushfire crisis first appeared on The Northern Daily Leader.

Aa