Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ingleside Rural Fire Service

Extract from NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard and Papers Thursday 15 March 2012.


Mr ROB STOKES (Pittwater—Parliamentary Secretary) [6.02 p.m.]: This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Ingleside Rural Fire Service, which is one of the oldest and most active brigades in my community of Pittwater. Since its establishment in 1952, when members of the Tumble Down Dick Brigade saw the need for additional services to be located closer to the expanding residential areas of Pittwater, its volunteers have served our community with dedication and distinction. Whilst combating and preventing fires may be the brigade's primary role, its members also perform a wide variety of roles, from assisting with road accidents and storm damage to educating residents about fire prevention and safety.

As all members of the House understand, rural fire brigades are vital within our communities and cannot continue to function without the ongoing generosity and commitment of local residents. I commend the Ingleside Rural Fire Service, including its Captain Sean McLoughlin and Senior Deputy Captain Scott Molenaar, along with their invaluable team of volunteers and supporters, past and present, including Frank Vumbaca, Alan Setchell, Alan Stevens and Ron Hughes, just to name a few, who have helped to develop the Ingleside brigade into the professional and highly respected unit it is today.

Unfortunately, our community knows all too well the devastation and destruction bushfires can cause, with the harrowing events of January 1994 still serving as a continual reminder of the susceptibility of the Pittwater community and the importance of our local brigades. I still remember the blood-red moon that rose over Pittwater in January almost 20 years ago. In fact, Pittwater has some of the State's most challenging landscapes for bushfire protection, with the elevated ridges and deep valleys of the Garigal and Ku-ring-gai Chase National Parks and the unique locations of our offshore hamlets presenting significant challenges for fire crews and personnel.

Thankfully, however, our community is home to 10 of the highly skilled Rural Fire Service brigades which make up the Warringah-Pittwater District Rural Fire Service. These brigades are on call around the clock, every day of the year, and include Cottage Point, Duffys Forest, Coal and Candle, Coasters Retreat, Great Mackerel Beach, Terrey Hills, Tumble Down Dick, Scotland Island and the west Pittwater brigade with stations at Elvina Bay and Lovett Bay. It is the remarkable men and women that make up these brigades who are seen running into the danger zones when the rest of our community are being shepherded out of harm's way. They are our educators on fire mitigation, awareness and safety—our guardians when uncertainty is approaching and our saviours when disaster strikes.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the headquarters of the Cottage Point Brigade to inspect the extensive hazard reduction burning undertaken in and around the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the lead-up to last summer and to learn more about the preparations and actions being implemented by our local volunteers. I am very grateful to the captain of the Cottage Point Brigade, Jon Russell, for his time during this visit and the extensive knowledge of local bushfire protection strategies he was able to convey. There is perhaps no Rural Fire Service captain who takes more pride in his brigade's equipment, nor the community he protects, than Jon Russell, and for this we are enormously grateful.

As part of this visit I also had the opportunity to join volunteers from the Cottage Point Division of Marine Rescue NSW, including the Greater Sydney Regional Co-ordinator, Chris Gillett and Elizabeth Watts, out on the water to learn more about the vital role it plays in assisting the rural fire service during emergencies. As mentioned, whilst Pittwater has a number of unique environmental features that help form the character of our community, when bushfire emergencies strike this uniqueness creates enormous challenges and means fire strategies and evacuations are often coordinated via both water and land making well-rehearsed cooperation between our local emergency authorities vital.

While the past summer thankfully presented our community with no major bushfire incidents, largely because of lower than average temperatures and substantial rainfall, our local rural fire service volunteers were all on call, training, preparing and assisting local residents in mitigating potential threats against their properties. It is unfortunate that Rural Fire Service volunteers are often recognised only after disasters or high-activity summers. Being an active member of the Rural Fire Service is a year-round commitment that involves considerable personal sacrifices, regardless of whether fire emergencies are occurring. It is also important to note that it is not just the volunteers themselves but also their families who make a sacrifice, and this must be recognised. Volunteers are the backbone of our entire Rural Fire Service. Whether they are fighting fires, undertaking hazard reduction, preparing, training, feeding, fundraising or improving community awareness, their work is never complete and they simply cannot be thanked enough for their efforts. I congratulate the Ingleside Rural Fire Service on its sixtieth anniversary and convey our community's gratitude to all our Rural Fire Service volunteers.