Strong, dedicated Australians are the backbone of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS). When Shane Fitzsimmons was appointed to the role of Commissioner of the NSW RFS in 2007, he introduced a raft of changes, both culturally and operationally.

The CEO Magazine recently sat down with Shane to discuss the development of the NSW RFS, the passion of its volunteer workforce, and the future of the organisation.

“I think the biggest reason was that my father was already a volunteer for the Bushfire Brigade, as it was then known, and I would spend a lot of time there with him on weekends. I joined as soon as I could. Back then, you were allowed to join when you were 15; today, you’ve got to wait till you’re 16, with parental consent.

I followed my father into the volunteer organisation because I enjoyed the camaraderie. There was always something to do on the weekends. It was a hobby-type bushfire brigade where members would meet and train regularly. Back in the 80s, the volunteers were not resourced in terms of equipment and infrastructure to the standard we see today. A lot of our weekends were spent building, maintaining, and preparing the firefighting trucks and equipment. We bought our own overalls and personal equipment, and they were certainly not treated with fire retardants or purpose-designed as the PPE is today.”