Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) is the largest rescue service in NSW with 182 accredited rescue units and 1,853 specialised accredited rescue operators.  In fact, FRNSW is involved in nearly 12,000 rescue incidents each year.

FRNSW has 6,800 firefighters, both fulltime and on-call, who are all trained in basic rescue and undertake regular training and fortnightly drills to ensure their skills are up-to-date.

FRNSW is recognised as a world leader in road accident rescue and our Urban Search and Rescue specialists are the primary responders to disasters and major emergency incidents such as earthquakes, train crashes, building collapse and complex rescues. FRNSW is the only agency in NSW with Rescue Technicians trained to tunnel into collapsed structures, cut through concrete and steel, and use sophisticated electronic search devices.

Every fire engine in NSW carries rescue equipment, including rope rescue capabilities for heights and depths, and breathing apparatus for confined space rescues and hazardous atmospheres.

Our rescue operators also works in conjunction with other government agencies including the NSW Police Service, Ambulance Service of NSW, the NSW Rural Fire Service and the State Emergency Service


FRNSW has been carrying out rescues for over 100 years. Early newspapers and records describe our involvement at rescue scenes throughout NSW. From using turntable ladders to rescue people trapped at heights and depths, to specialist salvage crews effecting confined space rescues with Breathing Apparatus and ropes from ships' holds in Sydney Harbour, FRNSW has a long history of rescue involvement.

FRNSW operated salvage vehicles for many years, which were dedicated specialist appliances to support emergency incidents. Salvages carried entry equipment, ropes and tackles, lighting, lifting, general protection and clean-up gear for fires and emergencies.

FRNSW has involvement over the years in rescues at car accidents, train derailments, plane crashes, building collapses and general land type rescues and has attended all major rescues/emergencies in the last few decades, including the Granville train disaster, Newcastle earthquake, Thredbo land slide, and the Glenbrook and Waterfall train accidents.

The expertise of FRNSW has been called upon to provide assistance after the Turkey and Taiwan earth quakes and the Asian tsunami. We supplied specialist search equipment to the Beaconsfield Mine incident in Tasmania.

Today, firefighters are the primary rescuers in 90 per cent of the western world, and throughout urban and many rural areas in Australia. 

Areas of rescue

Technical Rope Rescue

Technical rope rescue is more about edge management than it is about well-engineered pieces of machinery. Firefighters at all levels of operation within the Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) are taught how to reach, treat and extricate people trapped over cliffs or other hard to access areas.

As people venture into urban and wilderness regions, such as high rise structures, caving and canyons, rescuers encounter increasing challenges in vertical extrication. Firefighters are trained with the equipment and skills to access patients in the most difficult of terrains.

All FRNSW fire engine carry rope kits to enable firefighters to undertake emergency vertical rescues.

Confined space

Confined spaces include storage tanks, trenches, sewers and ship compartments. When people are overcome by toxic fumes or lack of oxygen in these areas it also creates an extremely dangerous situation for rescuers. Any attempt to perform a rescue without suitable equipment and training will usually create more victims. To safely perform these rescues, firefighters are also equipped with atmospheric monitoring devices and Breathing Apparatus.

Motor Vehicle Accident Rescue

Motor vehicle accidents are dealt with by firefighters on a daily basis and involve firefighters using powerful hydraulic equipment to safely remove people from cars, trucks and buses.

The rescue involves stabilising the scene of the accident to prevent further injury then determining the safest and most efficient method of removing the patient from the vehicle without further injury. Firefighters work closely with Ambulance Officers to ensure the patient is removed in a manner which is safe, taking into account their injuries.

In 1979, the Board of Fire Commissioners and the Minister for Emergency Services agreed to legislate an expanded role for FRNSW in rescue operations. Changes to The Fire Brigades Act 1979 (Amendment) meant that the Brigades could be involved in rescue operations that were not necessarily associated with fire. A training and equipment installation program was introduced that eventually gave a light rescue capability to all Brigades. The main purpose of the upgrade was to provide all Brigades with a capability to release people trapped in road accidents.

FRNSW also operated salvage - rescues that carried heavier type rescue equipment. Today, these salvage/rescue units have become Heavy Rescue Vehicles and their salvage component redistributed to all fire appliances.

The wide geographical spread of FRNSW, our training, our modern equipment and our rapid response time, enabled the Brigades to develop into an efficient and effective rescue service. The implementation of Rapid Intervention Kits to the Brigades have greatly enhanced the FRNSW's rescue capability.

FRNSW now operates metropolitan and country, primary and secondary rescue units. The Brigades have a commitment to ongoing training and this ensures that its rescue operators and firefighting personnel can provide the community of NSW with a world- class fire and rescue service.


This involves the rescue of person from trains, planes and ships. They can involve train derailments and collisions, plane crashes and persons injured in compartments on board ships. These incidents require specialised heavy rescue equipment carried on FRNSW Heavy Rescue units.

Urban search and rescue (USAR)

Urban search and rescue (USAR) is a specialist capability to locate, provide medical assistance to and remove victims who have been trapped or affected by a structural collapse. Learn out more about USAR here

Animal rescue

Each yearFRNSW carries out hundreds of animal rescues. The Royal Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) relies heavily on FRNSW and other emergency services to rescue animals from chimneys, stormwater drains, swamps, trees and inside walls.

Our specialised rescue equipment such as wall cutters, aerial platforms and extra-long extension ladders, combined with our horse-lifting slings, reptile-handling kits, and thermal imaging and search cameras, assists greatly in animal rescues.

Industrial rescue

Industrial Rescue involves the safe removal of persons who have had an accident in the workplace such as factories, warehouses and building sites. It involves disentanglement from machinery, rescue from confined spaces, and extrication from heavy machinery such as cranes. Rescue of person trapped in lifts and escalators is also included under this section.


The rescue of persons trapped in household settings. This includes such things as children with fingers in drain plugs, removal of rings, and persons who are physically incapable of removing themselves from their houses due to ill health. FRNSW rescue units carry a 'Finger Kit' which contains a variety of tools to assist with these rescues. Many of these tools are designed by firefighters themselves to suit a particular task.


Swiftwater rescue is the rescue of persons from moving water in locations such as rapids, stormwater canals and creeks. It involves the use of rope throw lines, inflated fire hose and suitably equipped and trained firefighters entering the water to perform the rescue. Fast moving water can create an extremely dangerous situation for both the victim and rescuers, requiring a high level of training and skill level for firefighters.

As emergency service personnel, firefighters may be called upon to enter an aquatic environment at any time. FRNSW has specialist training in order to cover all aspects of aquatic interaction.


FRNSW provides rescue services in the alpine areas of NSW from fire stations at Perisher Valley and Thredbo. This involves all of the other areas of rescue as well as the retrieval of victims from remote alpine areas.

Due to the extreme conditions encountered, these units are equipped with specialised equipment such as snowmobiles, six wheel all terrain bikes and over snow vehicles. Firefighters are trained and equipped to handle the extreme weather conditions commonly encountered in the unique alpine environment.

Fire rescue

FRNSW is responsible for all rescues involving fire in FRNSW fire districts. This involves anyone trapped in a building or vehicle that is affected by fire. Due to the high risk presented by fire, firefighters are specifically trained and equipped to operate in this environment.

Hazmat rescue

The FRNSW is the sole organisation responsible for rescue involving Hazmat in the state of NSW. Rescues involving Hazardous Materials require special clothing and equipment to ensure the rescuer is not exposed to dangerous chemicals. These types of rescues can be extremely demanding due to the need to wear chemical protective clothing whilst operating rescue equipment.

Assist other agencies

FRNSW rescue units are used to assist other agencies due to their specialist skills. Some of these duties include:

Gain Access

FRNSW rescue units carry heavy duty tools that allow entry to be forced into buildings. The Ambulance Service and Police utilise the FRNSW to force entry in Medical Emergencies where occupants are locked in and ill, or have not been heard from for some time.

Storm Damage

FRNSW rescue units carry chainsaws which can be utilised to clear storm damage.

Logistic Support

NSW Health utilised specially trained Urban Search and Rescue firefighters to provide food, water, accommodation and support in South East Asia following the Tsunami in December 2004. FRNSW was able to deploy these fully self sufficient teams within hours of being requested.