The smoke clears on dramatic 2013 at rural firefighter conference‏


NEW South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons was on hand at the region west staff conference in Orange on Wednesday, reflecting on the last 12 months of firefighting in the state.

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Commissioner Fitzsimmons and over 30 of the region's firefighters converged on the Canobolas RFS headquarters for the conference, which focused on the enormity of 2013, what the RFS can learn from the previous 12 months and to reward several staff members with long service medals.The smoke clears on dramatic 2013 at rural firefighter conference‏

"Across the entire region west, it's pretty much just to come together and reflect a bit on what has occurred and what we've learned from that," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

"We're preparing for what we can expect in the next season, and working through some changes of policy and legislation and that sort of thing.

"This morning [yesterday] we were discussing 2013 as a whole in terms of the fires and the damage and destruction.

"Most importantly there was no loss of life to firefighters. Of course it wasn't without any loss but historically, with the sort of fires we saw in 2013 there would be a heavy loss of life."

Commissioner Fitzsimmons said the conference also explained the use, and positive impact, of technology on firefighting and how the RFS can continue to improve on its warning system.

Thirteen fire fighters received long service medals including Orange's Roy Ferguson and Molong's Steve Smith, for 40 and 42 years' service respectively.

"The medal presentation today was very important, those staff members have over 300 years of service between them," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

"For those two, it is a lifetime of commitment all around the state, to the volunteer ethos and values.

They were wonderfully uncomfortable in front of their peers being recognised, but that is a good thing. It's great for them to be recognised."