2016 Australia Day AFSMs


Congratulations to the NSW RFS recipients of the Australian Fire Service Medal, announced on Australia Day 2016.

Deputy Captain Phillip William Baer, South West Slopes Zone (Region West)

Photo of Phillip BaerPhillip's tireless commitment and leadership qualities in the area of professional development and training have resulted in a significant increase in the competency level of members within the South West Slopes Zone (SWSZ) over the past 10 years. Under Phillip's stewardship brigades in the SWSZ have been more accepting and willing to participate in training.

Phillip has held the position of Training Committee Chairman where he promoted training at all levels across the SWSZ. He regularly coordinates and delivers all levels of formal training in locations which suit the membership.

Phillip Baer has achieved significant results in the area of on-line training within the SWSZ and more widely across Region West. Phillip introduced a web based learning program to the SWSZ which he has since modified to include the theory components of numerous RFS courses. A number of districts are currently using Phil's system to allow members to undertake theory components of training at home. An avid proponent of technology, Phil has also introduced other tools to enhance local training.

Phil has coordinated number of multi agency incident management exercises at the SWSZ to test the capability of Incident Management Teams including Emergency Operations Centres. Phil has coordinated Group leader training locally and at a Regional level.

Upholding Workplace Heath and Safety standards and working with brigades to maintain safe operations has always been at the forefront of Phil's NSW Rural Fire Service activities. He has actively promoted safety through sound process and the utilisation of standards to increase safety awareness within brigades.

Phillip’s integrity and understanding of policy is highly regarded by his peers. His commitment to sound governance is evident in the numerous local procedures and guidelines that he has developed and had endorsed by the Senior Management Team and Training Committee. As a member of the SWSZ Liaison Committee Phillip has been involved in a number of positive outcomes.

Phillip has led sector commanders and crews while working as a Divisional Commander at the Wallendbeen, Geegulalong, Watershed and other Section 44 fires. Crews are always keen to follow Phil's calm methodical leadership approach.

Phillip's leadership skills have seen him supervise crews in his role as strike team leader to major incidents such as the 2013 Cobbler Road Fire, the 2013 Blue Mountains fires, the 2009 Victorian fires and many other out of area S44 deployments.

Phillip is currently a Deputy Captain of the Frogmore Brigade and member of the SWSZ training committee. Phillip's dedication and the proven results he has achieved over a number of years make him worthy of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

John Maurice Bourke, Illawarra Zone (Region East)

Photo of John BourkeJoining the Mount Kembla Brigade in July 1974 John has been a member for 40 years, being an active member across many roles. He was a Deputy from 1975 quickly becoming Captain from August 1980 for 9 years through a period in which the Brigade grew through his hard work, leadership and fund raising. This included moving the station to a new location, extending the new station and building better trucks and equipment. He then stepped back to Senior Deputy Captain in 1989, then to Deputy Captain from 1995, receiving the National Medal in 1997. In 2003 after 24 years of being an officer he handed in his commission to better pursue his love of being first and foremost a firefighter.

Not only has John been a stalwart to the NSW Rural Fire Service but he has enlisted his whole family into the service with wife as treasurer and welfare officer, five children as firefighters, three as deputies and two as secretary.

Whether it is motor vehicle fire at 2 am in morning, storm damage recovery, searching for lost people, a hazard reduction or a campaign fire in some far corner of a different state, John is still actively engaged in his fire fighting. From Marysville to Canberra, Bathurst to Thredbo, the Blue Mountains or in his home territory at the back of Mount Kernbla, John has many tales from his years of experience to share.

Now that employment is no longer a burden to his service, John is key to maintaining the fleet of Mount Kembla trucks and all manner of light equipment that makes up a brigade. Of recent times he has also been involved in the High School Cadet program, open days and community education. Known to be pedantic in his mopping up, the current generation of officers know all too well it can happen if John spots a job not done properly. When not attending incidents, he continues to use his wealth of knowledge and experience to be a key mentor to the brigade, and across the NSW Rural Fire Service.

On top of raising his family of volunteer fire fighters and now enjoying a number of grandchildren John is also a key leader in the preservation of the Mount Kembla history and amenity.

While John would rather be on the trucks serving his community than receiving an award, he would be an honourable and a worthy recipient of the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Senior Deputy Captain Darryl Max Lang, Lower North Coast Zone (Region North)

Photo of Darryl LangSenior Deputy Captain Darryl Max Lang commenced his service as a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) in January 1957.

Darryl has held ranked positions of Brigade Deputy Captain for Gumma Rural Fire Brigade from 2013 to 2015, Lower North Coast Zone Deputy Group Captain 2009 to 2011 and Group Captain from 2006 to 2009 and 2011 to 2012 and Gumma Brigade Senior Deputy Captain from June 2015 to present.

Darryl has demonstrated leadership to members of the RFS leading a team of 18 firefighters at the 1994 Grafton fires, ensuring members were adequately tasked given their experience. He kept crew members informed of the situation by briefing them while ensuring their safety and welfare was paramount.  Crew opinions and comments were listened to and if required, acted on.

Darryl as Group Officer has mentored members during Group Officer assessments showing his leadership style and ways to deal with difficult situations and usually under extreme pressures while dealing with it. An example of this was when the back burn was not going in quick enough, Darryl expertly led the crews to put the burn in quicker to keep containment while all along communicating the intent to his Crew Leaders and giving detailed reasons as to why it needed to be done and how to get the best out of the crews. Darryl has attended many interagency fires where he used his leadership skills to work with National Parks and State Forests to successfully suggest and implement similar fire management strategies to control a wildfire, continually communicating with key stakeholders the benefits and short comings of what was considered to be implemented.

As Darryl has taken a less active leadership role in the last few years, his leadership gives way to that of utmost respect. All firefighters respect Darryl for his years of leadership, knowledge of NSW RFS culture and his ability to pass on these important leadership skills.

Darryl’s dedication is exemplary. He is always available 24/7. An example of this is when Darryl was assisting with the community education unit at Medlow School teaching the local kids about fire awareness when he became aware of a 000 call to a grass fire. Darryl responded to say that he was in a position to assist if required as he had just finished.  Thanks to Darryl's dedication, commitment and quick response, the grass fire was able to be contained without impacting on local residences. Darryl is regularly seen driving Gumma Support Alpha on his way to either the Gumma Fire Shed or into the Fire Control Centre to assist the local NSW RFS Team for the overall betterment of the NSW RFS.

There have been very few occasions where Darryl has spoken about the challenges of him and his commitment to the NSW RFS, despite the many challenges faced. He is such a passionate man that takes to heart changes that he can see no benefit from. Nevertheless, he puts his personal feelings aside, soldiered on with the job and committed to the NSW RFS wholeheartedly.

An example of this is when the Nambucca and Kempsey NSW RFS Districts amalgamated. At first, Darryl found this extremely hard to accept, however, he committed to the then Fire Control Officer that he would support the decision being in an influential position as a Group Officer, he went about assisting the local Nambucca volunteers to accept the change. The commitment for change was demonstrated whilst working on an Incident Management Team in Kempsey, Darryl was able to assist in the support of heavy plant at the Willawarrin Fires and interacted with many of the Kempsey volunteers.

Given Darryl's local network here in the Nambucca Valley, he is often seen in the community in his NSW RFS uniform while conducting RFS business. Even when out of uniform, when the conversation turns to the NSW RFS he often speaks of what great things they were doing or how the NSW RFS could assist a member of the public in need. An example of this is when he attended a local agricultural field days and engaged with a farmer known to be difficult, showing him a NSW RFS "Before you Light that Fire" pamphlet.  This farmer a month later applied for a Hazard Reduction Certificate and Darryl became the Group Leader of the hazard reduction activity.

Darryl has always promoted the organisation in a positive strong light in a sincere way. Darryl's commitment to promoting the NSW RFS has included but not limited to: NSW RFS Open Days; Community Education displays; information nights; instructing and assessment of members; collection of Brigade and Fire Control vehicles; and generally making sure that the RFS is always represented professionally.

Darryl Lang is worthy of being considered for the Australian Fire Service Medal.

Group Captain Kevin Joseph Martin, The Lakes Team (Region East)

Photo of Kevin MartinGroup Captain Kevin Joseph Martin commenced his service as a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service in December 1979. Kevin joined the Charmhaven Rural Fire Brigade as a member and very quickly demonstrated his versatility in taking on various roles within the brigade.

Kevin has held ranked positions of Brigade Captain for Charmhaven from 1993 to 2002, Wyong Deputy Group Captain from 1998 to 2002 and Wyong Group Captain from 2002 to present.

Kevin saw the Charmhaven brigades response requirements begin to expand due to the rapid population increase within the Wyong LGA. He quickly realized the current stations limitations to accommodate an increase in volunteer numbers and the larger, modern firefighting appliances that were being provided at the time. He was instrumental in the planning and building of the new station which now comfortably meets the needs of members but also easily houses new modern firefighting appliances which now serve the community.

As part of his tireless efforts over 25 years of active service with the brigade he was awarded life membership in 1998.

Kevin has assisted at many incidents both locally, state wide and interstate. These incidents range from many motor vehicle accidents and fires on the very busy M1 Pacific Motorway, large structure and campaign fires. Kevin has led volunteers at multi agency responses to the Newcastle Chicken Disease 1999, June 2007 Central Coast Storm Event and Black Saturday Fires Victoria 2007 to name a few.

Recently he was instrumental in the firefighting operations at the Ruttleys Road Fire. This fire was the largest and most intense fire within the Wyong local government area for many years. Kevin's knowledge, experience and leadership on the fireground were evident. These skills meant that property damage was minimal and firefighters responded to his directions which significantly contributed to zero firefighter injuries in very difficult circumstances.

As a senior volunteer, Kevin is a member of the local Senior Management Team where he is a passionate advocate for improving the districts capabilities as well as representing the concerns of volunteers. His leadership is not only reflected daily in his long standing role as a Group Captain but also as a Senior Instructor in Compressed Air Breathing Apparatus and Rural Fire Driving.

In addition to that Kevin finds time to undertake the role of an afterhours dispatcher for the provision of service to the "Firecom" function. A role he has assisted with for over ten years from his home residence.

Communications Deputy Captain Leslie Prosper Nowland, Hunter Valley Team (Region East)

Photo of Leslie NowlandMr Leslie Nowland joined the Muswellbrook District Headquarters Bush Fire Brigade in 1946. He was actively involved in fire fighting activity and civil defence duties including involvement in the 1955 major flood emergency in the Upper Hunter Valley.

In 1992 that Brigade was renamed as the Muswellbrook Communications/Support Brigade in which Leslie is still a member. Leslie has held many positions within brigades, including Captain for 8 years, Senior Deputy, Deputy Captain, Brigade President and Secretary. In all aspects of brigade involvement he has shown dedication, commitment and loyalty. His thoroughness and expertise particularly in radio communications, record keeping and attention to detail that he brings to any task asked of him is truly remarkable.

As a devoted member of the Communications Brigade, Leslie has dedicated many hours of service to the Muswellbrook District conducting weekly test pages and radio checks, as well as providing communication support at the fire control centre. He has been involved in many Section 44's in the Hunter Valley and elsewhere.

Leslie has obtained the qualification of Crew Leader and has devoted himself to the NSW Rural Fire Service especially the Communication/Support brigades where Leslie has trained numerous persons in the correct procedures for radio communications.

For over 30 years Leslie has volunteered his time as storeman, ensuring that volunteers received correct PPE and ensuring that all PPE and other fire fighting equipment and parts were maintained and available when needed. For many years he delivered logistical supplies to many fire grounds around the district. He was instrumental in the organisation of catering for fire fighter and incident management team personal before the formation of a dedicated Catering Brigade.

At the age of 91 Leslie still manages the districts store taking great pride in his store and the meticulous recording of all stock issued and received. Leslie has always been on hand any time of the day or night to assist, with just a radio call or phone call and he would be ready to help within minutes of receiving the call.

Leslie's dedication and commitment to the NSW Rural Fire Service along with the admiration and respect of his peers has seen Leslie recognised as one of our most valued senior members, he is a very experienced communication operator and offers support to all members when asked, often with little notice.

Leslie's knowledge of the local and surrounding areas and past fire history has been instrumental in assisting incident management personal in preparing plans and forecasting potential issues when major fires break out.

Leslie has dedicated 69 years to the NSW Rural Fire Service and is a respected, committed, valuable member of the NSW Rural Fire Service within the Hunter Valley Team.

Group Captain William Pownall, Namoi-Gwydir Team (Region North)

Photo of William PownallBill Pownall joined the Wallah Rural Fire Brigade in 1963 and has remained an active member of this brigade throughout his service. From 1983 until 2005 Mr Pownall was Captain of this brigade and in this time was involved in all aspects from attending incidents to issuing permits. Mr Pownall is also the current Secretary of the brigade, a position which he has held since 1999.

In 1999 Mr Pownall was elected Group Captain, a position which he still holds today. In this role Mr Pownall is active in all aspects of the Service, from attending incidents as Incident Controller and Divisional Commander, to attending Service Level Agreement meetings and Senior Management Team meetings. Mr Pownall also regularly assists with training in the team area, including running the local Chainsaw Operator courses and assisting with the Rural Fire Driver courses. Mr Pownall has chaired the Narrabri/Moree Bush Fire Management Committee for numerous years.

From 1 January 1999 to 1 June 2002, Mr Pownall accepted the honorary position of Deputy Fire Control Officer for the Narrabri District. From the 22 February 2006 until December 2006, Mr Pownall was employed as a temporary Operations Support Officer for the Namoi Gwydir Team. During this time he conducted an extensive overhaul of the Narrabri Tanker fleet, a role he still assists with as required.

Mr Pownall has a high level of qualifications, including Group Leader and is a mentor to members of the service throughout the Namoi/Gwydir Team area.

Mr Pownall received the National Medal in 2013 and it is the view of the Namoi/Gwydir Team of the NSW Rural Fire Service that Bill Pownall is well and truly a worthy nomination for the Australian Fire Service Medal for his 52 years of diligent service to the community.

Group Captain Colin Smeeth, MIA Zone (Region South)

Photo of Colin SmeethGroup Captain Colin Smeeth joined the Wyangan Brigade in 1967, and has been Captain and Group Captain since 1996. Colin shows a positive and practical attitude to all roles he undertakes.

Colin is on the Senior Management Team, Bushfire Management Committee and the Liaison Committee for the MIA District and has been since 1996.

Colin has led many taskforces to out of area fires; with the most recent being the January 2015 fires in Victoria. Colin is very much a lead by example volunteer. He is extremely active on the fire ground, going out to investigate fires at all times of the day or night. Colin imparts his knowledge and skills by assisting in the MIA District Training Group particularly with the Crew Leader and Group Leader courses.

Colin was awarded the National Medal in 1990 for his continued active service. In 2012 parts of the district were severely flooded particularly the township of Yenda. In 2013 Colin was awarded the Commissioner’s Commendation for the onerous task of coordinating strike teams that had been sent to Yenda to assist the residents in cleaning up their yards and homes. Along with coordinating the requests for help from residents, not only was Colin required coordinate residents and RFS Volunteers, he was in a position to listen to the residents, who just needed to tell their stories of horror at the damage the flood had caused. Colin recognised the need for further assistance, so arranged for the district to organise the NSW Rural Fire Service Chaplain's Ian and Kerry Spall to come to Yenda to talk to residents and volunteers doing the clean up. During this time, Colin showed exemplary compassion, patience and leadership.

Colin is a supportive mentor to volunteers from all areas and happily imparts his extensive knowledge of fire fighting.