Wollondilly RFS volunteers recognised for commitment to community

A combined total of 921 years of service to the community has been recognised in a special award service.

The NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) Southern Highlands Team celebrated the achievements of dedicated members with the presentation of 33 long service and five national medals to volunteers.

A presentation of awards was held at the Mittagong RSL Club on June 17.

NSW RFS deputy commissioner Peter McKechnie joined Wollondilly MP Nathaniel Smith, Wollondilly mayor councillor Robert Khan and other special guests to mark the occasion.

Mr McKechnie noted that the 38 recipients had together given a total of 921 years of service to the community.

"The members being recognised with long service or national medals range from 11 to 73 years of service with a special mention of Brian Coates of Hill Top Brigade for his incredible 73 years of service to the NSW RFS and receipt of his national medal 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th clasps," he said.

It soon became clear that commitment to the RFS is a tradition within the Coates family from Hill Top.

Mr Coates said he followed in the footsteps of his father Albert who became a volunteer in the 1930s as part of the then newly formed Hill Top RFS brigade.

Mr Coates' wife Janet has been an RFS volunteer for 63 years while their daughter, Tina Hindley, son and daughter-in-law Michelle and Ian Coates, and granddaughter Sara O'Brien were also recognised for their commitment to the RFS at the June 17 presentation.

It would seem the family's commitment is not likely to end anytime soon with other younger members of the Coates' clan recently signing up as RFS volunteers at Hill Top.

Meanwhile, the sense of pride and commitment of all volunteers at the awards service was hard to miss as each long-serving member stepped up to accept their respective recognition.

Mr McKechnie congratulated each of the Southern Highlands volunteers on their dedication, commitment and service to their communities.

"You only have to look at 2019/2020 season to see how hard our skilled firefighters and support crews work to keep us safe when fires and emergency situations threaten," he said.

"Last season, many of these volunteers were also helping with grass fires and flood rescues, along with dealing with everyday incidents such as motor vehicle accidents and structure fires."

Mr McKechnie added the NSW RFS was committed to providing volunteer firefighters with the equipment, infrastructure and resources they needed to carry out the important work of protecting their local communities from fire and a diverse array of incidents.

"I would like to take this time to praise all our volunteers for their ongoing efforts each and every day, particularly when dealing with emergencies here in the Southern Highlands," he said.

"We also thank the family, friends, employers and colleagues of all NSW RFS volunteers. We know it takes their ongoing support and patience to assist and enable our volunteers to do what they do to protect our communities and to save lives."