There has never been a more crucial time in NSW’s recent memory that highlights the importance of our volunteer firefighters. Emergency services occupy a unique role in the community. They rush in with help when the rest of us are running out. Ku-ring-gai Living had the opportunity to ask Yoel Hyman, a local rural fire brigade member, about fire fighting and some of the challenges facing us all this season.

1. You’re a fire fighter. What does it entail?

I’ve been a volunteer firefighter with the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) for over five years. I’m a member of Terrey Hills Brigade and have recently become a dual member of the new Killara brigade in the Hornsby/Ku-ring-gai district. The following are some of the various activities/incidents I have been involved in: attending motor vehicle accidents, oil spills, automatic fire alarms, structure fires, flood and storm damage, bushfires, hazard reductions, animal rescues, search and rescues, overnight standby shifts, community engagement events and of course fire-safety preschool and kindy visits. I’ve also been involved in a number of out-of-area deployments: Grafton, Holsworthy, Taree etc. Some of these are for 12 hours; others can be for five days at a time.

2. How would you describe fire fighting?

Being with the RFS has many benefits. It’s demanding; I have been challenged physically and mentally and I have learnt so much from the experience. Socially, I have made many friends that I know I can call on at any time. I’ve also always been interested in helping others and giving back to the community; being able to help people during what is possibly their darkest hour is something that I value beyond description. The RFS is my second family. That said, my mother will tell you it was her organisation of Fire + Rescue’s Willoughby Pumper to attend my fifth birthday party that started everything!

3. What are some of the unseen or challenging aspects of fire fighting?

Fire fighting is inherently risky. Being on the fireground is demanding both physically and mentally. There have been very confronting challenges faced by myself and my peers. Recently on a deployment to Taree, our strike team (generally a strike team is five trucks and a strike team leader), were tasked to the township of Rainbow Flat as fire impacted; buildings burned as the bushfire raced across the Pacific Highway and through the township. Many of us are still processing the events that unfolded that evening.

With danger comes the risk of injury. I sustained a badly broken arm at the November 12th Turramurra emergency. All emergency and community services acted incredibly on the day and have been beyond supportive since the incident. The brigade acts as a second family and helps wherever possible.

One of the unseen challenges is how our involvement can be stressful and taxing on partners, family and friends. Without the support of family, fire fighters would not be able to commit the time that we do. Words cannot describe the recognition they deserve.

4. What do you and the brigade wish local residents knew about this summer?

The RFS and all other emergency services are likely to be spread thin this fire season. My best recommendation is to prepare now: it’s far better to have organised for the worst and not need it, compared to the alternative. Set aside a morning or afternoon to information gather and set your plan in place:

DISCUSS: with your family, friends and neighbours what you will do. Choose to either LEAVE EARLY or STAY & DEFEND
PREPARE: your property
KNOW: the bushfire alert levels
KEEP: up to date with information

Don’t rely solely on social media or Facebook groups for information. Go directly to the source. Get online, or contact your local brigade to get a bushfire survival plan. Write your plan down and put it somewhere everyone knows. That way, if you ever need to action it, you only have to grab and go, and won’t waste time.

Download the free fires near me app. For further information:

– Use the Fires Near Me app – http://firesnear.me
– Refer to the RFS website, it also instructs how to make a fire plan – http://RFS.nsw.gov.au
– Refer to the RFS Facebook page – NSW Rural Fire Service
– Call the Bushfire Info Line on 1800 679 737 (1800 NSW RFS)

Left to right: Julie Sissons, Caryn Thomson, Yoel Hyman, Richard Larking

5. Tell me about your connection to Ku-ring-gai

My wife and I are currently living in Lindfield, and I grew up in East Roseville. I’m a former Killara High School student. I run NSBL, the only basketball club operating solely within Ku-ring-gai / St Ives. I’m also a strong advocate for the community and actively involved wherever I can be.

6. What are some of your favourite places in the area?

I enjoy the outdoor basketball courts in East Killara, Saiala Road / Allan Small Reserve; they’re surrounded by nature and quiet. Stanley St Café consistently serves a great coffee and Jet Bar Caffe has a great chicken avo wrap with a side of haloumi fries if you’re hungry.

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