New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) has a new Commissioner following the resignation of Shane Fitzsimmons in March of this year.
Commissioner Rob Rogers first became involved with the RFS in 1979 as a volunteer member of the Belrose Rural Fire Brigade, before being appointed Deputy Fire Control Officer for the Greater Taree District in 1995.
Mr Rogers has held various executive roles in the NSW RFS since 2001, including responsibility for Regional Management, Community Safety and Operations. In 2011 he was appointed Deputy Commissioner.
He represents the NSW Rural Fire Service on national and state bodies including: Chair of the Australian Fire Danger Ratings Board; Chair of the State Bush Fire Arson Taskforce; Chair of the Aviation Industry Reference Group and Aviation Advisory Committee; Co-chair of the Incident Management Road Safety Working Group; and Co-chair of the Joint Operations Taskforce.
During the most recent devastating fire season, Deputy Commissioner Rogers oversaw the state-wide response to more than 11,400 bush and grass fires that burnt more than 5.5 million hectares, destroyed 2,448 homes and tragically took 25 lives.
Minister for Police and Emergency services David Elliot said: ‘Rob Rogers has the outstanding credentials necessary to lead more than 70,000 dedicated RFS volunteers that we depend on when bushfires threaten life and property.’
Upon being appointed to the role, Commissioner Rogers identified a number of key priorities coming into this fire season, including significant upgrades to technology and equipment. He identified a need to review personal protective equipment, including helmets and respiratory protection, and to look at the design of firefighting vehicles.
‘We have a very high standard of protective equipment and vehicles, but last fire season showed us that there are opportunities to make these things even better.
‘When our volunteers turn out for a job, it’s only appropriate that they can expect to do their job safely and effectively and get home to their families.’
With the tragic deaths of three NSW RFS volunteers last fire season, Commissioner Rogers reflects on the enormous toll that the fires have taken on those in the Service.
‘It’s taken a physical toll on so many, and we’ve all been deeply affected by the deaths of our firefighters, as well as the three American aircrew who died in the C-130 crash.
‘But the season’s also taken a big toll on people’s mental wellbeing. Our people have been through a lot, and some of them have been in situations that will stay with them for a very long time – so I think it’s important to make sure that we’re providing as much support as possible in the area of mental health and wellbeing.’
Commissioner Rogers has also identified the need to act quickly in the wake of the last fire season and not waiting for findings of inquiries. He’s also focused on managing the increased RFS aerial firefighting capacity this year and ensuring significant donations from last year are used effectively and efficiently to support volunteers.
‘One of our biggest challenges, like so many agencies experience after events like this, is the scrutiny and the work that goes into learning the lessons. The last fire season saw some of the worst conditions imaginable but there’s no doubt we will see fire seasons like that again in the future, so it’s critical that we evolve.’
On a more personal note Rob was born in the UK and spent his early years in the West Midlands, migrating to Australia at the age of 10 and settling into the Northern Beaches in NSW. Rob is married with two adult daughters. The family home is currently in Newcastle after moving around NSW as a middle management officer in the RFS. This has given Rob an excellent understanding of a volunteer service and regional issues.
Commissioner Rogers was awarded the National Medal in 1995 and the Australian Fire Service Medal in 2004.
There is no more demanding a task than managing one of the Australian fire services. Asia Pacific Fire Magazine congratulates Commissioner Rogers and wishes him the best for the upcoming fire season.
For more information, go to www.rfs.nsw.gov.au