Historically, responses to fire events in New South Wales have been undertaken by two different organisations. Broadly, in urban and built up areas the primary response is from NSW Fire and Rescue while in rural and farming areas the primary response is from the NSW Rural Fire Service. Both combat agencies cooperate and support each other where needed or where their critical skills are an aid to public safety.
The NSW Fire and Rescue as an agency has responsibility for designated township areas (fire districts) and are specially trained for all hazards and types of structural fires. In larger towns they have crews who are full time employees that immediately respond to calls while in smaller fire districts they have volunteers who are retained firefighters. They are also the accredited Hazmat agency across the state.
The NSW Rural Fire Service has responsibility for all responses outside the designated fire districts with volunteers making up all the response crews. The service is supported by a professional full time staff who carry out planning, coordinate responses, manage training and allocate resources across the state. Volunteers are trained to fight bush fires but also support other agencies at structural fires, flood emergencies, search and rescue and motor vehicle accidents. Some brigades are trained to also fight structural fires where special community facilities (such as nursing homes) are located at a distance from a fire district.
Brief History of Bush Fire Control Services
The threat from and the management of bush fires across Australia is a pervasive aspect of living in this country. South Eastern Australia has the most severe aspect of these threats and is reputed to be one of the most dangerous places for bush fires in the world.
As pastoralist spread out across the country they confronted the threats of summer bush fires. Initially, due to isolation, the response was to protect property and animals as the fires passed through. From the early 1900's as properties became smaller and settlements closer farmers and communities began to band together to lessen the impacts of raging fires in their immediate neighbourhood. With the establishment of Local Government in rural NSW, in 1906, the legislated responsibility for controlling such fires fell to those councils and their communities. In farming areas farmers banded together and formed bush fire brigades - during the 1920's 30's and 40's these tended to consist of neighbours and people from a particular locality. While the councils provided limited resources to these farmer groups generally the groups had to purchase their own equipment or more often than not modify their farm equipment as a fire fighting resource.
Essentially up until the late 1960's the Bush Fire Service was a purely volunteer operation with all councils having a volunteer, unpaid, Fire Control Officer. Firstly in the closer urban areas the Fire Control Officers position became salaried positions with more structured plans and responses being developed. The NSW State Government also took an increasing interest in responding to control measures in recognition that major fires could not be met by local resources only. However the focus still remained on a council area basis.
With growing closer settlement, the encroachment of urban dwellings along with the increased intensity of periodic fires it was recognised that a more structured and better resourced response to bush fires was needed. In the mid 1990's the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) was established and since then a growing professional organisation has been supporting local councils and communities not only to fight fires when they happen but undertake strategies to minimise the treats.
The Rural Fire Service and its Structure
With professional dedicated staff the RFS has taken on an increasing role in managing the fire threats. The RFS is responsible to the Minister for Police and Emergency Services for delivering its services. The Service is led by the Commissioner who is supported by five directorates covering Executive Services, Operational Services, Regional Services, Infrastructure Services along with Membership and Strategic Services. The staff of approximately 700 cover management activities from head office through the regions to Fire Control Officers and their teams in each local government area.
The RFS has a central office in Lidcombe Sydney and four regional offices located at Batemans Bay (Region South), Grafton (Region North), Young (Region West) and Sydney Olympic Park (Region East).
The Malua Bay Rural Fire Brigade is part of the Eurobodalla Shire brigade structure and is located in Region South. This Region takes in the South Coast, Southern Tablelands and the western areas of the Riverina, has a full time staff of 91 with 483 volunteer brigades.
Locally, Eurobodalla Shire has 22 brigades and approximately 850 active volunteers and the brigades are divided into discrete groups of brigades, Malua Bay is part of the Group North area. The brigades in each of these groups every three years elect a Group Captain and two Deputies. The Group Captains act firstly as an interface between volunteers and the local professional staff as well as having primary responsibility for operational responses to call outs in their area.
The following website pages below give an outline of our volunteers and their roles. These pages can be accessed through the navigation bar found on the left hand side at the top of this page.
More details on the NSW Rural Fire Service can be found at www.rfs.nsw.gov.au.
Updated October 2015