9 May 2023

Illawarra RFS Group Captain honoured with commendation for bravery

| Andrew McLaughlin
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The NSW RFS has honoured 80 of its members on International Firefighters' Day. Photo: RFS.

The NSW RFS has honoured 80 of its members on International Firefighters’ Day. Photo: RFS.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has chosen a day that is very special to all ‘firies’ – the Feast Day of St Florian, Patron Saint of Firefighters, and International Firefighters’ Day – to honour one of its members from the Illawarra/Sutherland region for bravery.

RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers was joined by NSW Minister for Emergency Services Jihad Dib at the RFS State Training Academy in Dubbo to present Group Captain Craig Robertson with the Commissioner’s Commendation for Bravery, and to honour nearly 80 other brave RFS members for their efforts in recent fire and flood events.

“Today we say thank you to the RFS volunteers and staff who selflessly respond to all manner of fire and emergencies, often leaving their own families behind to help others.” Minister Dib said in a 4 May release. “I am incredibly proud of the men and women who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to protecting NSW communities in times of crisis.”

READ ALSO Local RFS volunteers honoured in Monaro

Group Captain Robertson was honoured for his role in a flash flood on the Hacking River south of Sydney when the Otford Rural Fire Brigade and Illawarra Group 1 responded to a callout in fading light on 2 July last year.

The commendation says that during the callout, “Group Captain Robertson located a man wedged in a tree surrounded by the rapidly rising river and, deciding immediate intervention was required, secured a rope to himself and a member of the Otford crew before moving into the floodwater”.

It said he secured the rope to the man in 1.5 metres of fast-moving water, and the man was assisted from the water to safely.

Group Captain Craig Robertson.

Group Captain Craig Robertson. Photo: Facebook.

“I was the first on site and it was pointed out to me that there was a gentleman hanging onto a tree about 25 metres off the side of the trail. He had been in there probably about 15 to 20 minutes,” Group Captain Robertson said in the release.

“When you’re put in that situation where you hear someone screaming for help and hanging onto a tree, it was a split-second decision I had to make and that was to get the rope and get out there to try and help that person.

“I’ve been a member for 40 years,” he added. “I joined the service because it was a great place and you did it for the community. I’m honoured to be receiving the award and it is nice to be recognised, but I’m not really an awards person.”

Group Captain Robertson’s commendation was among three others that were highlighted by the RFS.

READ ALSO RFS mourns death of veteran firefighter ‘Doubles’

Operational Officer Philip Blackmore was awarded the Commissioner’s Award for Valour, the highest NSW RFS commendation, for his efforts to assist and begin resuscitation of a man found lying beside a burning vehicle with significant burns and injuries at Gwandalan at Lake Macquarie in 2020.

During the floods on the far north coast of NSW in March 2022, a young RFS member from the Back Creek brigade near West Wyalong who had deployed to Coraki near Lismore as part of a joint Lake George/Monaro/Southern Tablelands taskforce provided comfort and compassion to a traumatised resident. For her efforts, 21-year-old Rosanna Joshua was awarded the Commissioner’s Commendation for Service.

Commissioner Rogers also recognised the efforts of RFS Aviation Rescue crews with the Commissioner’s Unit Citation for Service. He said that, since February 2022 they performed more than 180 rescues to save people trapped by rising floodwaters.

“On 14 November, Aviation Rescue Crew members confronted complex and challenging conditions to undertake 67 rescues by helicopter in the township of Eugowra (near Forbes),” the Commissioner said. “This is the largest number of successive rescues performed by rescue aircraft on any single day in Australian history.”

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