That’s how NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons described the centuries of collective service which was recognised on Friday in Griffith.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the social cohesion of villages and towns was built on the efforts of volunteers.
“It’s built on men and women doing their bit in the community to make a positive difference,” he said.
For the Commissioner, whether a volunteer had 10 years or 50 years experience, they were all still part of the RFS volunteer family, helping out support and mentoring members.
Part of the recognition of that is through medals, but also investment in improved equipment, infrastructure and fire trucks.
“You’ve only got to go back a few decades, you go back 60 years, you’re talking about really rudimentary equipment,” he said.
“You’re talking about hand tools, you were lucky if you had a pump and hose, you were lucky if you had a trailer with a water tank on it.”
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said it was only a decade ago that half of the trucks in task force might not make it to a neighbouring council area to help due to break downs. He said the fleet consisted of around 6000 modern appliances, trucks and specialist equipment.
“Our members are better protected, they’re safer, the vehicles and equipment are more reliable, there’s an abundance of equipment so members don’t go short for gears,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
“We’re trying to make their job as easy and as safe as possible while they’re doing their part to serve and protect their local community.”
The experience and commitment of volunteers to help the community is going to be called upon for the fire season, which for some areas had been declared early.
“There is no doubt that the drought is having a profound effect on regional and rural NSW,” he said.
“But so too is it having an impact on the fire risk and the elevated fire danger, we’ve already seen through months like July and August thousands of fires across NSW.”
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said drought meant there was less fuel in grasslands but undergrowth in state forests was quite dry.
“The outlook over the next three months is indicating a dominance of above-average temperatures, below average rainfall, it’s not a good signal for either the drought or the fire season.”