Ben Lomond’s Rural Fire Service brigade has been boosted by the construction of a larger shed which was officially opened last Saturday.
Council’s Interim Administrator, Viv May, joined the Member for Northern Tablelands, Adam Marshall, newly appointed NSW RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers and RFS members at an opening ceremony for the new facility, which increases the brigade’s capacity to accommodate its equipment and members.
Armidale Regional Council headed a joint project with the New England Zone RFS to relocate two sheds no longer required in their previous locations in Walcha Shire because of changing populations. The two-bay structures have replaced smaller sheds for the Ben Lomond brigade and the Kentucky Brigade in Uralla Shire.
Commissioner Rogers said the larger Ben Lomond facility and the project to relocate it would better equip the brigade to protect a community that came under attack from bushfires in late 2019.
“Improved fire protection services are a priority at any time but are particularly welcome so soon after the blazes that surrounded this village and required many landholders to evacuate their properties,” he said.
“Council’s involvement was highly valuable in shifting the two sheds to where they were most needed.”
Mr May applauded the RFS decision to bolster Ben Lomond’s fire station, saying it was essential the region was well resourced “to protect our people, livestock and wildlife in times of emergency”.
“In addition, we are exploring opportunities with the NSW Rural Fire Service to build on existing infrastructure at Armidale Regional Airport and further improve coordination of aerial firefighting capability across the north of the State,” he said.
“At the peak of last year’s bushfire disaster, Armidale Regional Airport was the nucleus of aerial firefighting efforts covering much of north eastern NSW. It was a hive of activity and an obvious location for an RFS central command facility for the region.
“Discussions are taking place for such a facility at the Airport, including improved bore connectivity for firefighting water, an extension of the runway, a hard stand for filling firefighting aircraft and a planned state-of-the-art fire control centre.”
RFS Zone Manager Steve Mepham said aerial firefighting is one of the keys to initial responses in remote locations to keep fires smaller while ground crews gain access.
“It also provides a bird’s eye view of where the fire is and where the brigade needs to go to get there safely,” he said.
“At the same time, the new station at Ben Lomond will help to enhance the local brigade’s capacity to protect its community. It raises the profile of the local brigade, to become more of a focus within the village, and hopefully we will see an increase in membership as a result.”