A NSW Rural Fire Service chopper saved a man's life yesterday as a raging bush fire roared towards his property, north of the small country town of Crookwell, near Goulburn. The man, in his 70s, was alone. At the last minute, the cavalry arrived - out of the black, smokey sky a helicopter appeared and inside was an elite 4-man team of volunteers from the Rural Fire Services' Rapid Aerial Response Team. The old man had the pumps and hoses all ready and the team went to work.
An RFS spokeswoman said "As they were fighting the fire, - it was very close to the home - a water-bombing helicopter sourced water from a dam on the property and started water bombing. They managed to save the man's home and sheds. However, there was damage to what's been described as antique farming equipment. The man was understandably very shaken and the team stayed with him afterwards to comfort him."
Federal Labor minister Brendan O'Connor took a swipe at Tony Abbott last week and tweeted that his volunteering fire fighting efforts were a political "stunt." He deleted the message and issued an apology when it became known that Mr Abbott has been a volunteer in his local brigade since 2000 and served as deputy captain before becoming Opposition Leader in 2009. He cut short his holiday this summer to fight fires near Nowra and is now back with his Sydney brigade. "I'm just one of 65 in this crew and part of thousands across the country" he said.
Exhausted but still smiling
Across NSW yesterday, 73 aircraft were in use as the RFS fought 99 bush and grass fires - 18 of them uncontained. And not one life lost.
So who do we thank for an outstanding job? The buck has to stop with the boss, Shane Fitzsimmons, Commissioner of NSW Rural Fire Service. He hails from Sydney's north shore and volunteered when he was 15. This man has his organization running like a well oiled machine and should be congratulated.
But he's not the only one, hundreds of men and women have given up their summer vacations to answer the call and as the heat wave continues today with an expected temperature in Sydney of 43C, their job is far from over.
Want to volunteer? Men and women of all ages most welcome. Here's how: www.rfs.nsw.gov.au
Bondi beach yesterday