New South Wales has been fighting what some are calling the worst fires in 45 years.
Tens of blazes are still burning across the state, though the worst of the crisis appears to be over.
Throughout the disaster the head of the Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons has been giving regular updates, and his calm, methodical nature has been on display.
Many agencies have been involved in the efforts, and the men and women on the ground have done Australia proud. Fitzsimmons though has been tirelessly coordinating operations, and is owed a great deal of thanks, with only one life lost so far.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
He’s been a firefighter since he was 15
Fitzsimmons joined the Duffys Forest Rural Fire Brigade as a volunteer when he was still a teenager, defending bushland around Sydney’s northern suburbs
He lost his father to bushfires
Fitzsimmons’ father — who was a volunteer at the Duffys Forest brigade alongside his teenage son — was killed in a hazard reduction burn in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in 2000.
According to Fairfax, four National Parks and Wildlife Service workers were killed and three were injured after the fire turned on them.
He previously worked in the car industry
He joined the Rural Fire Service as full-time regional planning officer in 1994.
At 44 he is the youngest commissioner in RFS history
According to his professional bio, he’s had a range of jobs in the service. He’s been a front-line firefigher, Sector Leader and Division commander. The RFS says he has filled “most positions within the Brigade structure, including Brigade Captain and Group Officer”.
He’s had experience coordinating huge fires before
He helped manage the firefighting efforts against what were — until now — the worst fires in NSW history, between the years 2000 and 2003. At the time Fitzsimmons was Assistant Commissioner for Operations.
He studied management at TAFE
His professional bio says he obtained management qualifications from NSW TAFE, and also studied at the Australian Institute of Police Management as the inaugural visiting fellow of the Australasian Fire Authorities Council.
He is a family man
Fitzsimmons has a wife and two daughters.
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