BACK in 2019 Raglan RFS volunteers were among thousands across NSW to battle the worst fires ever seen in the state.
Earlier this month, their efforts were rewarded, with firefighters receiving their National Emergency Medals at a special presentation at the RFS headquarters.
The National Emergency Medal is awarded to volunteers who rendered sustained or significant service during nationally-significant emergencies in Australia.
Among the emergencies declared nationally-significant for the purposes of the medal include the Bushfires of 2019-20 along with the North Queensland Floods 2019, Tropical Cyclone Debbie 2017, the Queensland Floods 2010-11 and Cyclone Yasi and the Victorian Bushfires of 2009.
Chifley/Lithgow RFS Team manager Mick Holland said to be eligible for the Bushfires 2019-20 clasp, volunteers had to meet a strict criteria.
This included service in the protection of lives and property; or in the service of interests, that are not their own, in direct response to the emergency.
He said the National Emergency Medal was a campaign medal issued by the Federal Government, with recipients receiving a medal to start with then getting a bar for subsequent events.
"The medals are given out to volunteers working in emergency services for major events, this time it was for RFS volunteers fighting fires in 2019 and 2020," Mr Holland explained.
"The awards are given to volunteers for undertaking service over and above, serving five days or more in the bushfires."
He said in the Chifley / Lithgow RFS, which includes Bathurst, Oberon and Lithgow, 650 medals were given out, highlighting the efforts and dedication shown by volunteers from across the region.
Mr Holland said there was a major award ceremony held in Oberon recently, with other brigades also given the opportunity to hold their own events.
"The ceremony at Raglan was an example of this, with a small percentage of medals given out here."
Mr Holland said another medal ceremony in August would see similar medals presented along with long service medals and the National Service Medal, which acknowledges service for at least 15 years.
He said he was incredibly proud of all the volunteers who had received or will receive medals, describing the work they do as nothing short of outstanding.
"Not one firefighter in the RFS is paid. And the 2019 and 2020 were the worst fires we've ever seen," he said, adding that fire season was long and hard.
"Our volunteers from the Chifley / Lithgow unit started the season early heading up north. We stated the strike team sending up volunteers as early as August and September and we followed those severe fires all the way here. We dealt with our own fires and then our volunteers moved south as the fire front moved.
"Those guys are amazing...actually amazing isn't even the word. They just want to do good and help people, they love fighting fires it's their chosen avenue to help their community and help look after the people who live there."
Mr Holland, who in addition to his role as Chifley/Lithgow Team manager also works in a volunteer capacity with the RFS, said he has supervised many of the volunteers who received medals and said he couldn't speak highly enough of them.
"They amaze me. Day in and day out. We give them a call and day in and day out they show up. They go home dirty and tired, but they keep coming back," he said.
"The volunteers do a lot for the RFS and it's much more than just fighting fires. They provide information on bush fires and building codes, they do a lot."
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