New firefighting brass for New England and North West

Published: 30th October 2012

The New England and North West region has new firefighting brass with the arrival of Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Zone Commander Steve Hirst and Duty Commanders Grant O’Regan and Rod Chetwynd.

Superintendent Hirst, who became a firefighter in 1988 after having worked as an electrician for the fire service for four years, said he was looking forward to the challenge.

“I am really enjoying it so far. The people are very friendly and there’s a great vibe about the region,” he said.

“For me the time was right to become a Zone Commander. I was an Inspector based at Newcastle for eight years and I wanted a new challenge.”

Superintendent Hirst brings a wealth of experience to the role, having worked as a firefighter, trained other firefighters as an instructor, worked in the hazardous materials unit and as an urban search and rescue specialist. He was the first person to hear the sounds being made by the trapped Stuart Diver after the Thredbo landslide disaster in 1997. Since then, Superintendent Hirst has been deployed to help during the Queensland floods and to Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

Inspectors Chetwynd and O’Regan also have vast experience in firefighting and emergency response.

Inspector Chetwynd, who’s been a firefighter for 20 years, has left his position in charge of firefighter training at FRNSW’s State Training College to take up the Duty Commander’s role. He said the three senior officers had many different and complementary skills to offer the region.

“I just hope I can bring my training experience up here and, with Superintendent Hirst and Inspector O’Regan, provide firefighters and the community with stability,” he said.

Inspector Chetwynd said he and his family, who are originally from Armidale, were looking forward to living in the region again.

“We’ve always wanted to get back up to this area because our family is here so this is a great opportunity for us.”

Inspector O’Regan has worked as a firefighter for 28 years at some of the busiest fire stations across the state and said he was looking forward to using his experience to help the New England and North West community

“I’ve spent most of my time in south western Sydney and at some of the biggest and busiest stations around.I decided it was time for a bit of change so I applied to become an Inspector,” he said.

“Every day is a new adventure with Fire & Rescue NSW. You wake up not knowing what’s in store.”

Superintendent Hirst encouraged others in the New England and North West region to consider becoming a retained firefighter.

“If you enjoy being part of a team, are physically fit, and want to give something back to your community, contact us and find out how to become a retained firefighter,” Superintendent Hirst said.

“Retained firefighters receive a fortnightly payment for being on-call and an hourly rate for attending incidents, training sessions and other community education activities.

“The majority of retained firefighters have other jobs and community-minded employers are happy for them to leave work to attend call-outs.

“The role is a varied, interesting and rewarding one. Firefighters not only fight fires and respond to a wide range of emergencies, they also educate school children, seniors,business people and the wider community about fire safety.”

If you’re looking for a new challenge, then FRNSW wants to hear from you.

For information about becoming a retained firefighter, call the FRNSW Zone Office in Tamworth on (02) 6766 5598 or visit