Response capabilities and recovery

Fire services

FRNSW responded to 67,945 fire-related emergency calls in 2016/17, with 21,784 of these being actual fires.

FRNSW continues to provide high quality reliable and rapid response to safeguard people and property in NSW’s growing cities, expanding metropolitan areas and regional and rural towns. FRNSW protects 90% of the population of NSW making it one of the largest fire services in the world.

We serve the community of NSW by:

  • responding quickly to calls of fire (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
  • protecting property within NSW and saving properties from structural fire.

Rescue services

FRNSW responded to 12,234 non-fire rescue calls including animal rescues in 2016/17. The provision of rescue services in NSW is coordinated by the State Rescue Board (SRB) under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989. FRNSW is the largest provider of rescue services, carrying out almost 70% of all rescues in NSW and operating 79 primary and 109 secondary accredited specialist rescue units in 188 locations. All firefighters are trained in basic rescue including 2,297 registered as rescue operators with the SRB. In addition to specialist rescue vehicles, every fire engine carries rescue equipment.

The provision of rescue services in NSW is coordinated by the State Rescue Board (SRB) under the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989. FRNSW is the largest provider of rescue services, carrying out almost 70% of all rescues in NSW with accredited specialist rescue units in 188 locations. All firefighters are trained in basic rescue including 2,700 registered as rescue operators with the SRB. In addition to specialist rescue vehicles, every fire engine carries rescue equipment. FRNSW responded to 12,234 non-fire rescue calls including animal rescues in 2016/17.

FRNSW has five water-based flood rescue stations and 20 land-based flood rescue stations, with 127 water-based flood rescue technicians and 565 land-based flood rescue operators. 

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.

Bushfire services

FRNSW responded to 6,537 bush and grass fires in 2016/17. FRNSW undertook 34 prescribed hazard reduction burns in 2016/17 reducing the bushfire risk for 991 properties with an accumulated value of over $6.9 billion.

Fire and Rescue NSW supports the NSW Rural Fire Service during and after bushfires in NSW. We also work to prevent the occurrence of bushfires through our hazard reduction strategies and community education campaigns. We also conduct research into factors affecting bushfire behaviour in order to continually improve our service. Another important aspect of our service is our work with communities to help them prepare for bushfire season. This includes training and implementation of Community Fire Units across the State.

Hazardous materials (Hazmat) services

FRNSW responded to 15,541 hazardous material (hazmat) incidents in 2016/17. Under the Fire Brigades Act 1989, FRNSW is responsible for protecting 100% of the people, property and environment of NSW from chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) hazards. These may range from industrial accidents through to deliberate acts of terrorism.

FRNSW works with industry groups, and government agencies to minimise the impact of hazmat incidents on the public, including working with the national bulk tanker industry to increase awareness of FRNSW response and recovery role during a bulk tanker incident, the Environment Protection Authority and SafeWork NSW. FRNSW also works with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) to assist manage Hazardous and Noxious Substance (HNS) incidents on vessels at sea.

All fire stations are equipped with trained personnel and resources for dealing with hazmat incidents. Each fire station receives hazardous materials awareness training and equipment to combat minor spills of hydrocarbons, gas leaks and emergency decontamination procedures. FRNSW has four specialist Hazardous Materials Response Units which have advanced capabilities in detection of toxic industrial chemicals, volatile substances and chemical warfare agents.

Community medical assistance

FRNSW responded to 2,386 medical emergencies in 2016/17 ranging from cardiac arrest, childbirth, snake bites to major trauma assisting the Ambulance Service of NSW (ASNSW). All firefighters are trained in advanced first aid, oxygen resuscitation, use of automatic external defibrillators and basic patient assessment. Three ASNSW paramedics are currently working with FRNSW to provide Basic Life Support and Advanced First Aid training.

FRNSW provides a Community First Responder program in some towns to assist ASNSW. Firefighters in these towns have received additional training to provide life saving intervention until ASNSW paramedics arrive.

Urban search and rescue (USAR) capability

FRNSW Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) capability provides specialised equipment, training, organisation and techniques used to locate, access, stabilise, and rescue people trapped following major building collapses and other complex rescues. The initial USAR response is provided by on-duty rescue crews staffing heavy rescue units in Sydney, Newcastle, Gosford and Wollongong. FRNSW has over 250 additional specialist personnel capable of carrying out complex technical rescue operations as members of USAR Task Forces.

A USAR Task force is a team of trained personnel including, rescuers, ambulance specialists, hazardous material technicians, trauma doctors and others. The NSW USAR task force combines specialist extrication and medical skills along with firefighting skills of entry, salvage and hazardous material response.

USAR is a key component of the state’s ability to deal with the consequences of a terrorist attack, and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) plays a key role in training and providing tactical and strategic support to other states, territories and countries in the region. FRNSW urban search and rescue expertise gives the State an internationally recognised structural collapse capability, and we are registered with the United Nations to respond to requests for international assistance.

We have integrated teams from other states and territories into our overall command-and-control structure. This ensures a seamless amalgamation of resources if ever required for a prolonged structural collapse.

We have also developed strategic partnerships with other emergency services and interstate fire and emergency services. We also assist with development of USAR capabilities in the Asia Pacific region.

Counter-terrorism services

FRNSW maintains its operational preparedness to manage the consequences of terrorist acts particularly those involving fires, explosions, building collapse, and chemical, biological or radiological agents, as part of an integrated whole-of-government counter-terrorism strategy. FRNSW has hosted and/or participated in numerous multi-agency counter-terrorism training exercises that focus on exercising the risk.

Fire investigation and research

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) Fire Investigation and Research Unit (FIRU) provides a range of investigative and research services to both internal and external customers including research into human and structural behaviour during fire, and the associated impacts for performance based building design. The Fire Investigation and Research Unit assists with determining fire causes and liaises closely with Police and other investigators.

The objective of FIRU is to improve measures against deliberately lit fires and ensure the safety of the community by determining the causes of fires; particularly those caused by faulty appliances in use by the public. Investigators also interact with FRNSW personnel to assist with fire cause determination, fire report compilation and submission of reports and statements to Police and through the court system.

Investigators from FIRU attend fires throughout the State, particularly those where:

  • there has been a loss of life or major injury from fire
  • the fire is considered major
  • the fire is considered unusual, suspicious or deliberate
  • the cause is not readily apparent
  • the Incident Commander requests FIRU attendance

When attending fires the Investigators are able to observe first-hand the behaviour of the fire, methods of extinguishment, building behaviour and human behaviour. Firefighters find evidence at fires and preserve it for later production in court or continuing investigations. FIRU officers supervise and instruct on recognition and preservation of that evidence. They also obtain current and relevant information to assist in the investigation of the fire origin and cause.

FIRU is also responsible for analysing the built environment in the context of human behaviour in fires, structural behaviour, impact and cost of fires to the organisation and the community. This information is then used by fire engineers, fire code reform bodies, tertiary organisations, fire services and the designers of fire safety systems etc.