Upper Hunter representatives attend RFSA’s Protect and Connect Conference

SOME 500 rural firefighters, including a number from the Upper Hunter, spent the weekend at Rosehill at the RFSA’s Protect and Connect Conference, learning about the latest firefighting techniques, the newest technology and the best research from around the country.

The Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) event brought hundreds of firefighter volunteers together from across NSW to learn, share perspectives, adopt practices, and establish meaningful connections with each other.

“Fires don’t respect local boundaries, so neither do firefighting intelligence, equipment and techniques,” RFSA president Ken Middleton said.

“This conference provides tangible lessons that can be taken back home and put in place straight away by delegates, and their brigades, districts, and communities.

“The theme, Protect and Connect, was based on two ideas that are inextricably linked for NSW Rural Fire Service members.

“Our members play a vital role in protecting and connecting their communities, but also need to be ever mindful of protecting their own health and safety, and of building strong, positive connections with each other.

“This conference was the most education laden ever held by the RFSA and was about ensuring our members have the newest ideas and research whilst taking the opportunity to learn from each other.”

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant addressed the conference on Saturday morning.

“NSW communities rely on the dedication and selflessness of volunteer firefighters to protect their homes, property and most importantly, their lives,” he said.

“The NSW Government remains committed to providing our firefighters with access to the best training, technology and research available to support their vital work.”

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons AFSM also addressed the conference, reaffirming the efforts of the volunteers and expressing his ongoing support.

“I applaud the RFSA for their determined advocacy and ongoing support of our members across NSW,” he said.

“The association is a core part of the service and their efforts ensure members can do their job safely while protecting communities across the state.”

Across the weekend, delegates heard from 17 speakers, with a strong focus on mental health, wellbeing and resilience. 

They also discussed traditional topics expected at a firefighting conference, including a review on community preparedness and responses to the 2017 bushfires. 

Other topics covered included:

* Forecasting impact for severe weather

* Cultural burning – using indigenous practice and science to apply fire strategically

* Predicting firestorm occurrence

* Catastrophic and cascading events

* Improved decision making in complex multi-team environments

* Volunteers before the courts – when and why?