‘Most devastating bushfire season’ in NSW history is over
WHAT officials have called the "most devastating bush fire season in the state's history", which claimed 25 lives, was declared over today.
NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said this season had been unprecedented in terms of conditions experienced, the loss of lives and property, and the threat to communities across large parts of NSW.
"NSW RFS crews and other agencies have responded to more than 11,400 bush and grass fires that have burnt more than 5.5 million hectares, the equivalent of 6.2 per cent of the state," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
"Fires this season have destroyed 2,448 homes; however, the great work of firefighters saw 14,481 homes saved."
"This season there were six days where areas across NSW recorded catastrophic fire weather conditions.
"At the height of activity, there was on average around 2,500 firefighters in the field each shift with up to 4,000 on days of increased fire danger and impact.
"We have seen a combined inter-agency response from NSW RFS, Fire and Rescue NSW, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Forestry Corporation NSW, NSW State Emergency Service, NSW Police, NSW Ambulance and the Australian Defence Force come together with our interstate colleagues.
"We must also thank the international response and assistance from Canada, the United States and New Zealand."
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said that most tragically 25 lives were lost, including those of the three NSW RFS volunteers and three US aerial firefighters.
"Our thoughts will forever be with the families and loved ones of all those who lost their lives.
"We especially pay tribute to the families of Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O'Dwyer from the Horsley Park Brigade and Samuel McPaul from the Morven Brigade, along with US aerial firefighters Ian McBeth, Paul Hudson and Rick DeMorgan Jr.
"Their loss has been felt deeply and we honour the sacrifice they made to selflessly protect communities across NSW."
Commissioner Fitzsimmons said all emergency services personnel, especially NSW RFS members, have given so much, spending time away from their families, jobs and loved ones.
He also thanked the wider NSW community and warned residents to keep their property prepared with an updated survival plan in place with the next fire season set to begin in a few months.