Out of the frying pan



AS Mid North Coast rural firefighters prepare for a long and potentially difficult bushfire season, they can take heart with almost $13 million in State Government funding heading their way.

Emergency Services Minister Tony Kelly said brigades in the Bellingen, Coffs Harbour, Dumaresq, Greater Taree, Hastings, Kempsey, Nambucca, Walcha, Gloucester, Great Lakes and Lord Howe Island rural fire districts would share $12.8m from a record $140.2m state bushfire budget.

"NSW has just experienced its warmest winter on record, with a lack of coastal winter rains from the Sydney basin north to the Queensland border," Mr Kelly said.

"The continuing warm, dry conditions in many areas escalate the risk that this could be a serious bushfire season.

"The official bushfire danger period was brought forward to August in Hastings, Kempsey and Nambucca and September in Bellingen and Coffs Harbour, meaning there is an even greater demand on local firefighters and their families this summer.

"As always, ensuring the safety of our volunteer firefighters as they work to protect the community over summer will be the highest priority.

"This $12.8m will help ensure brigades along the Mid North Coast have the vital equipment, training and logistical, aerial and other support they need.

"This year's funding takes the total amount allocated to brigades in this coastal region by this government over 11 years to $95.7m.

"With this funding, we have achieved significantly improved fire protection for local residents and businesses and the many thousands of visitors who flock to this area of our coastline each year."

Mr Kelly said the $140.2m Rural Fire Fighting Fund was an increase of $6m over last year's previous record funding and an increase of more than 176 per cent since 1994/95.

"The RFS is recognised internationally as a world-class firefighting service, with morale, resources and facilities to match."



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