22 August 2023

RFS calling for volunteers as long, hot South Coast summer looms

| Claire Sams
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A man and a woman in RFS uniforms next to a fire truck

Rural Fire Service Batemans Bay’s Courtney Binder and Brad Italiano at the Surf Beach tip in Eurobodalla Shire with green waste. Photo: ESC.

When vast tracts of Australia burned in the horror period now known as the Black Summer bushfires, many volunteers stepped up to fight the flames.

And as the 2022–23 fire season draws near, NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) coordinator for the Far South Coast Chris Anderson said there was always space for new volunteers to come on board.

“It’s a trending pattern,” he said.

“We do lose people through different avenues, but it’s also great to see new members coming through and becoming involved with the RFS.”

Mr Anderson said current volunteer numbers in his region, which spans the Eurobodalla and Bega Valley Local Government Areas (LGAs), had stabilised over the past few years.

“We’ve got well over 1500 volunteers across the Far South Coast region,” he said.

They sit among the 72,855 volunteers spread across almost 2000 brigades in the state, according to the NSW RFS.

READ ALSO Cold fronts had ‘persistent effect’ on Black Summer bushfires, new study finds

Mr Anderson said there were many reasons why people became involved with the RFS.

“A lot of our members come from very tight-knit communities, and a lot of our brigades are also very tight knit,” he said.

“There is a camaraderie that comes with becoming an RFS member, and a reward that comes with volunteering and assisting the community in the time of need.”

Mr Anderson said current conditions in Eurobodalla and Bega Valley LGAs were the result of several wet years that had resulted in an increased fuel load.

“The last few years we’ve seen limited fires along the Far South Coast, due to the La Nina conditions that we’ve experienced and the high rainfall,” he said.

“(But) the grasslands are dry at the moment, so we’re expecting to see fires potentially in some of those areas if conditions remain the way they currently are.

“We’re expecting to see a normal bushfire season over the next couple of months.”

READ ALSO South Durras more resilient as power and comms cables go underground

Mr Anderson and his volunteers are currently preparing for the summer ahead.

“We’re trying to undertake as much hazard-reduction burning in this district as we safely can,” he said.

“We’re also inspecting our major infrastructure such as telecommunications towers.”

As the fire season approaches, Mr Anderson said there were key things people could do to prepare themselves.

“Now is the time to start thinking about your bushfire survival planning, and it’s a great time to review it with your family, if you have one,” he said.

“People should start preparing their properties for the onset of summer, as well.”

In the Eurobodalla, those embarking on a garden or bush block tidy up can access free green-waste services in a program organised by the shire council.

The normal fee for disposing of green waste will be waived for the two-week period between 11 and 24 September.

Mayor Mathew Hatcher said the service would help residents prepare for the fire season.

“It’s a service you have been asking for – a great opportunity to clear leaves and twigs from gutters and around buildings, prune back trees and shrubs, get lawns mown, and then get rid of that waste,” Cr Hatcher said.

“I’ve also been asked why there is a fee for green-waste disposal at all and, in a nutshell, we need to recover costs because processing green waste to Environmental Protection Agency standards requires specialist contractors with fit-for-purpose machinery.”

Further information on Eurobodalla Shire’s waste management can be found on the council’s website.

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