RFS & RRT work together, fighting fires near Cowra

Conditions ripe for fire

January 2013 saw the state of NSW on high alert with a total fire ban. Conditions in western NSW were volatile – dusty, dry and hot, with temperatures between 35-45°C. Bushfires were flaring throughout the region when the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church Rapid Relief Team in Cowra was asked if they would help supply food and water for volunteer fire-fighters.

Plymouth Brethren - Settling the dust

RFS – Settling the dust

An Often Overlooked Need: Chilled Water

The Waugoola Rural Fire Service Captain told the Plymouth Brethren a serious issue they faced was a lack of equipment to keep the fire-fighters’ water chilled in the intense heat. Only last week, the Captain said, two volunteers had fallen ill after drinking bottled water previously exposed to the heat of the flames. For the RFS to keep going, they needed water, chilled.

Not only that, the Brethren were told the situation was getting grimmer; the RFS was deployed to 4 separate zones in the region, in close proximity to bushfires. A fire menacing Boorowa was intensifying. Only 5 kilometres away, it was moving fast towards the township.

Plymouth Brethren - RRT Bottled Water

RRT Bottled Water

The PBC RRT snap to action

On Friday 18th, the Plymouth Brethren Rapid Relief Team immediately purchased 2 portable fridge/freezers for the RFS fire-engines. They delivered these, along with cartons of bottled water, to the base at Cowra airport. These small actions alleviated the pressing supply issues.

But the fires weren’t out, by any stretch…

Less than a week later, a fire – Decca Fire as it became known – ignited by lightning, was out-of-control near Wyangala Dam. It was in an inaccessible area and before long had burnt nearly 3000 hectares. Emergency services called in 9 planes to dump foam onto the blaze.

Plymouth Brethren - Phos-Check

Phos-Check retardant foam

Back at the airport in Cowra planes landed continually in a whirlwind of dust and grit. With the plane still running, RFS volunteers would frantically refuel and restock it with foam. Minutes later the next plane would land and the RFS would start the process all over again.

Refueling water plane

In an emergency, small complications matter.

At the RFS base there was a problem – vehicles were constantly flattening an essential hose running through the area. RRT members constructed a ramp for the vehicles, and quickly recovered full use of the hose. As well as that, a water truck with a tank was made available as backup if needed.

The RFS needed food

Before long, the Plymouth Brethren RRT discovered that the RFS had next to no supplies, and they set about to amend the situation.

With no on-site facilities, food preparation had to be carried out elsewhere.  There was barely time for a pause, so the food would have to be quick for the RFS to eat.

Plymouth Brethren - Eating on the run

Eating on the run

“Provide for 20-30 RFS members”

Wednesday evening 23rd January, the call came. The brief was short; provide for 20-30 RFS members per meal, until further notice. RRT members set to work that night: organizing meals, the purchase of supplies and donations from locals.

For three days, the RRT arrived at the airport countless times with meals prepared for serving. Always greeted warmly by the exhausted RFS members, the RRT could sense the morale of the volunteers lifting.

“The food was excellent and we want to thank you very much!” – Rural Fire Service Volunteer

The morale lifting was reflected when the RRT received such positive encouragement from the people they served. Hearing “We’ve never had support like this that we can remember” encouraged the RRT to keep going. Perhaps the most unexpected comment, though, was “we worked a longer shift because we knew the RRT were coming back and the food was so good”!

Plymouth Brethren - RRT delivering Supplies

RRT delivering supplies


17 thoughts on “RFS & RRT work together, fighting fires near Cowra”

  1. dunce says:

    10/10 for effort

  2. wendy says:

    you people are amazing
    keep it up!!!!!!

  3. bob says:

    very good u guys. keep it up

  4. Binn says:

    truely amazing work.

    well done you brethren.

  5. Alex says:

    (2, two, to, or too) true Jake!!! It is a very great sacrifice to leave their businesses and families and help out those equlally as brave fierfighters who work tirelessly in +50 degree heats. Tell us about what it was like out there in that fire?

    1. JAKE says:


  6. joe says:

    extreme dedication

  7. Zet says:

    I like the ‘branded’ RRT bottles of water – very professional!
    Good on you all – keep up the good work

  8. Steven says:

    This is hardcore dedication! A selfless attitude with 100% effort – does anyone agree?

    1. Simpleplan says:

      Mmm, i’d agree with that.

    2. granny says:

      Yep! Agree 100% with Steven.
      Any time, any where, any thing – that’s the RRT

    3. Daddo says:

      yes i agree completely, completely unselfish discribes them well

    4. Number9 says:

      Yep…..totally agree…

    5. 91 says:

      Fires do start,
      here or there,
      RRT are folks that care
      it may be
      they’ll come and help out, wait and see

  9. TWISTY says:

    10 out of 10 RRT.I personally have experienced the need for dedicated service such as yours. People need to realise that fighting fires involves more than just holding a hose.

  10. Nat says:

    Immediate response to help other people, again!!

    1. jake says:

      to true nat… very dedicational and unselfish of the RRT to purchase with their own money and aid those in need. excellent work, keep it up. i was at the fire near cowra. bottles of water were in shortage when two pallet loads arrived. very kind of you all.

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