Tuesday, 03 March 2020 09:18

WSROC welcomes RFS Commissioner Featured

RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, addressing the WSROC Board of Directors. RFS Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, addressing the WSROC Board of Directors.

Media release, 2 March 2020

The Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), welcomed NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, at its recent Board Meeting at Cumberland City Council to discuss how local government can work with state and federal agencies to improve resilience for future bushfires.

WSROC President, Clr Barry Calvert, said “It was an honour to have Commissioner Fitzsimmons address the WSROC Board. Many of our councils have worked closely with him through this traumatic summer, and we have immense respect for the outstanding job he has done.

After giving an overview of the summer’s emergency response effort, Commissioner Fitzsimmons and the Board discussed how processes could be improved, as well as some of the longer-term challenges being faced in the recovery phase.

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said, “There has been no parallel to the scale and magnitude of this event…This fire has raised a lot of questions, and we need to ask how resilient are we?”

“The windows of opportunity for hazard reduction are getting smaller. We need to start looking at dragging resources from beyond a local area to take advantage of weather window opportunities when they arise.

“Local government is the engine room of the response. I can’t overstate enough the criticality of local government’s role as an interface between the community and state and federal agencies,” he said.

Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Hawkesbury City Councils spoke of the challenges associated with the fire response and recovery efforts including the extensive cost of dangerous tree removal, and the need for mental health support for communities who are suffering the cumulative impacts of drought, fire and flood.

Councillor Calvert said “While this summer has been a huge challenge, I have been moved by the level of support offered by our metropolitan neighbours – Blacktown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Liverpool and the City of Parramatta  –  who shared resources, equipment and staff to assist with tree removal, emergency evacuation centres, waste management, and planning expertise to help communities rebuild.

“Our metro neighbours also generously offered support to fire-affected communities via food packages, accommodation and fund-raising events,” he said.

While WSROC’s peri-urban councils bore the brunt of this fire season, metropolitan areas were also affected. The Fairfield community suffered the tragic loss of two members of the Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade, while Cumberland and Liverpool experienced their own fire emergencies.

Cumberland Councillor, Paul Garrard, said “In Cumberland you would never expect to be impacted by bushfires, but we experienced the Greystanes – Pemulway fire. Council is now in the process of working with local fire authorities to develop a bushfire mitigation plan that includes re-zoning affected land to give Council greater scope for carrying out hazard reduction burns.

City of Parramatta Councillor, Michelle Garrard, said “The events of this summer have caused Parramatta to review its own emergency management processes. People living in cities often don’t see natural disasters as a significant threat, but this summer has shown that there is a risk.”

Councillor Calvert said “This fire season has touched everyone in one way or another, however it has also brought out the best in local councils and local communities. We look forward to working more closely with both state and federal agencies to ensure our emergency processes continue to improve.

The Commissioner closed with “I know you will have seen the toll it has taken on people at the local level… for those who feel disheartened, it is critical to remember that while 2,400 homes were lost, 15,000 homes in direct line of fire were saved.

 

[ENDS]

Media contact: Kelly Gee, 02 9671 4333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

 

 

RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons with WSROC Board. Left to right: Mayor Steve Christou (Cumberland), Clr Paul Garrard (Cumberland), Deputy Mayor Michelle Garrard (City of Parramatta), Clr Adrian Wong (Fairfield), Mayor Barry Calvert (Hawkesbury), RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, Mayor Tony Bleasdale (Blacktown), Clr Karress Rhodes (Liverpool), Clr Don McGregor (Blue Mountains), Deputy Mayor Steve Ring (Lithgow).

Last modified on Thursday, 05 March 2020 14:08

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