Rural Fire Service volunteer dies fighting Stanford Merthyr fire

Firefighters preparing to battle the blaze at Buchanan on Thursday. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW on Facebook.
Firefighters preparing to battle the blaze at Buchanan on Thursday. Photo: Fire and Rescue NSW on Facebook.

A FIREFIGHTER who died working to protect the Hunter has been praised for his selflessness.

NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott joined the public and firefighting community in mourning for the 48-year-old man. 

“I am deeply saddened by the death of a NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer in the Hunter region tonight,” Mr Elliott said in a statement.

“The volunteer, like all our emergency service workers, was selflessly dedicating his time to the protection of the community.”

“It is a timely reminder of the dangers faced by our emergency service workers every day.”

The volunteer firefighter died while battling a blaze at Stanford Merthyr, near Kurri Kurri, on Thursday night.

As the news broke, Herald readers mourned the loss of a man who ran towards fires as others ran away. 

The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed the man suffered suspected cardiac arrest about 7pm while working to control the bush fire. 

Other volunteers came to the man’s aid and provided medical assistance, including using an automated external defibrillator (AED), until ambulance paramedics arrived.

The volunteer was taken by ambulance to John Hunter Hospital but died a short time later.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said the man’s death was a tragic reminder about the dangers faced by volunteers and members.

“This is a terrible tragedy, where somebody who has gone to assist the community in its time of need, had paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.

“Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the man’s family, fellow brigade members and colleagues.

“We are offering every assistance possible to the volunteer’s family and his colleagues.”

Hot and blustery conditions throughout Thursday had made things difficult for firefighters battling the 58 hectare blaze, but more than 70 firefighters had managed to bring the blaze under control

The fire is currently listed at an advice alert level, meaning there is no immediate danger, and is being controlled. 

The blaze was sparked before 11am in a difficult to reach area near Cessnock. A fire investigator was deployed to the fire ground to try to determine what caused the bush blaze. 

- with Matt Carr