Stay informed and safe during the bushfire crisis

This site is for our people across the Transport cluster to get information and support during the bushfire crisis.

This includes:

While our teams across the state put in extraordinary effort to support communities in responding to the bushfire crisis, it’s critical that you continue to prioritise your personal safety while the emergency situation remains in place.

Please keep up to date and follow the latest advice from NSW Police or NSW Rural Fire Service and plan ahead at

If you require any further information or support please reach out to your manager. Keeping ourselves and each other safe during these times remains our top priority – please take care of yourselves and each other.

This site is for our people across the Transport cluster to get information and support during the bushfire crisis.

This includes:

While our teams across the state put in extraordinary effort to support communities in responding to the bushfire crisis, it’s critical that you continue to prioritise your personal safety while the emergency situation remains in place.

Please keep up to date and follow the latest advice from NSW Police or NSW Rural Fire Service and plan ahead at

If you require any further information or support please reach out to your manager. Keeping ourselves and each other safe during these times remains our top priority – please take care of yourselves and each other.

  • Insights from our people in the south coast communities

    In this video, our people in the South Coast region provide a thoughtful insight into what it was like working through the bushfire crisis.

  • Fire hero Willoughby bus operator Jon Russell

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    State Transit’s selfless team of volunteers for the Rural Fire Service (RFS), the State Emergency Service (SES) and the Army Reserve have played a key role in helping fight the fires and in the recovery efforts during Australia’s biggest natural disaster.

    Willoughby bus operator Jon Russell tells us of his experience on the front line of what he describes as “the worst fire season” he’s seen.

    Captain of Cottage Point Fire Brigade for 18 years, Jon joined the RFS more than 40 years ago and describes this isolated community where he lives on a tributary of the Hawkesbury River as “God’s Country”. He and his crew of 10 other RFS volunteers protect the 52 homes in this hamlet surrounded by Ku-ring-gai National Park.

    Jon returned to work at Willoughby Depot on January 20 after five weeks fighting the blazes that raged across NSW. A veteran of three stints as a bus operator at State Transit starting in 1987, Jon said his team were first called out in early December to protect homes in St Albans at Wiseman’s Ferry. It was not just the fires that posed a threat to RFS crews at this small but historic village. Venomous Eastern brown snakes and death adders stirred up by the fires created further challenges for firefighters.

    Just two days later Jon’s team were headed, sirens blazing, up the M1 to the Central Coast to protect properties from the fire front at Mangrove Mountain. With most residents evacuated, a number of RFS crews carried out back burning and with help from the sky from a 737 Large Air Tanker managed to save homes. After a 7am start the weary crew returned back to their Cottage Point fire station at 3.15am.

    The next day the crew were called back up the M1 to back burn to protect homes in the tiny village of Spencer upstream from Brooklyn. Meeting up with other Sydney RFS brigades and good mate and Willoughby PM bus operator Gunther Amann, Jon’s team helped save all properties from the fires despite also having pump salt water from the river and deal with pesky Funnel-web spiders.

    The courageous crew were back on the job before Christmas when fire threatened the popular tourist spot of Bilpin on the Bells Line of Road in the Blue Mountains. Jon described the two days battling the raging fire as “about as bad as you can get with the wind as our worse enemy”. Many homes and fruit orchards in the town known as the “Land of the Mountain Apple” were destroyed in the blaze.

    But it was responding to the fire at Buxton on December 19 in south west Sydney fanned by hot temperatures and winds that Jon and his crew faced the gravest danger. He and his team narrowly escaped death when fire engulfed them.

    “As I got out of the driver’s seat the crew came back screaming ‘get back in the truck’. It was just unbelievable the speed the fire moved. We had flames licking at the truck,” Jon said.

    “I really thought that would be my last day. We were overwhelmed by the massive fire front that surrounded us and we all had to dive into the fire truck. I just put on the water spray bars that pour water over the truck. The fire licked at the sides of the truck and we tried to get out of the area but I couldn’t see for all the smoke. We were helped out by other brigades.

    “In all the days I’ve been a firefighter that is the only day I thought would be my last. We really didn’t think we were coming out. I’m still upset by it but I’ve given my life to the RFS and have never had anyone in my team hurt. I just love what I do.”

    That day Brave volunteer firefighters from Horsley Park Rural Fire Brigade Geoffrey Keaton, 32, and Andrew O’Dwyer, 36, died when their firetruck overturned in the battle to contain blazes in south-west of Sydney. Three firefighters were also seriously injured when they were overrun by fire near Bargo.

    Despite the life and death experience in Buxton Jon’s dedicated team continued to battle blazes and back burn to protect communities in the Blue Mountains throughout January until he returned to work.

    Watch a video one of Jon’s crew took at Buxton as fire raged all around them.

    Other brave volunteers from State Transit include:

    Willoughby Depot:

    Bus operators Gunther Amann and Jason Smith

    Brookvale Depot:

    Bus operator Derek Woodstone

    ERA Xavier Macken Brookvale

    Safety Professional Shane Jones

    Mona Vale Depot:

    Bus Operators Andrew Mille and David Hall

    Duty Officer Gavin Bale

    Apprentice mechanic Brady Baker

    ERT Mechanic Mick Amarasinghe

    Ryde Depot

    Bus operators Gordon Pusey, Eric Carl Borchers and Martin lloyed


    Bus operator Edward Sarkis, Bus operator Christopher Oakes

  • Helping BlazeAid to support our communities

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    As the bushfire crisis abates, communities across NSW have begun the strenuous journey of rebuilding their homes, businesses and livelihoods.

    We’re currently working with BlazeAid, an organisation that helps communities affected by natural disasters such as fires, droughts and floods – which is just one of the ways our people are helping communities affected in the recent bushfire crisis.

    Take a look at this video to hear more about our work with BlazeAid.

  • Our bushfire volunteers: Mick Jackson

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    Mick Jackson, Train Crewing and Support

    Back in November, we featured some of Mick Jackson’s NSW RFS experiences in the early stages of the bushfire season, but we wanted to hear a little about what’s happened since.

    Mick, a compliance officer, joined the RFS at the same time he started with Sydney Trains in July 2013. He says he’s been encouraged by the support provided to employees doing emergency services work.

    “The Compliance and Assurance team is very supportive of my efforts at times like this and works with me so I’m able to undertake my RFS duties, particularly in long campaign fires such as what we’re currently experiencing around the state,” Mick said.

    A member with the Narellan Rural Fire Brigade, Mick enjoys being able to volunteer alongside some work colleagues.

    “It’s always good bumping into people from work and great to see there are plenty of other Sydney Trains staff from various directorates out there helping. Even recently on a nightshift strike team from Macarthur at Yerranderie, I was there with a Guard and Driver from Train Crewing & Support,” he said.

    Mick highlights the “sheer speed and ferocity of the fires” around Sydney this season, particularly the Green Wattle Creek fire.

    “In December, when it flared up and ran towards Oakdale, you’d be in an area surrounded by vegetation, then 15 minutes later the whole area was burnt black with spots of hot orange glows throughout.”

    Mick says donations to local fire stations of food, water, first aid items, and even ice-blocks have been appreciated by volunteers working hard to battle fires. He encourages people to also support local communities by visiting the hardest hit areas.

    “Rural areas and the State’s north have copped it very hard for several years of harsh drought and now fires,” Mick said.

    “If you can, take a trip or two to a regional part of the State and stay at the local motel, buy a sandwich at the local shop, buy some produce from the local farmer and have a beer at the pub.

    “It’ll go a long way to helping these communities who often rely on tourism, to keep them afloat.”

  • Our bushfire volunteers: Graeme Fickel

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    Graeme Fickel, Customer Service Delivery

    A Customer Service Team Leader based at Campbelltown Station, Graeme has been volunteering with the RFS for 25 years.

    Graeme began in the catering section of the RFS before transferring to firefighting in the Cobitty Brigade where he was for 10 years, working his way up to senior deputy captain. He then transferred to Narellan Brigade, closer to his home. Graeme has been with Narellan Brigade for three years and is currently acting deputy captain.

    “Sydney Trains has been excellent in assisting me with time away to help with the fires and attend training courses,” says Graeme. “My manager Graeme Ellis (CAM customer area manager) is always happy to chat, support me and checks in on my wellbeing.”

    In December, Graeme was deployed backburning with the Green Wattle Creek fire in the Terranderie area, as well as Oakdale, Silverdale, Balmoral and Buxton.

    There were many instances where Graeme’s crew pulled together in difficult situations, including saving a bush-surrounded property in Oakdale that was deemed undefendable.

    With the residents deciding to stay at their property, Graeme and the crew sat up on the road that lead to the house, ready to fight the fire coming through.

    “As the firefront approached, people were furiously wetting everything down – the fire and wind came at us with force, followed by an ember attack which then caused spot fires on the ground, running up trees.

    “We waited and attacked that firefront head-on from the property, once protection and crews were in place, along with other trucks and crew and helicopter support from the air.

    “We all did what we had to do, checking on each other and maintaining the water supply until the fire passed through so we could mop up, pack up and move onto the next property – it was an awesome victory.”

    “It’s all about working together as a team and knowing your ability and training expertise to be able to cope in each and every job you’re sent out to – communication is very important in all situations.”

    Last week, Graeme took a trip back to Balmoral and Buxton where he had been fighting fires.

    “The devastation left behind was unbelievable to say the least,” he says. “I was able to spend some time visiting friends there who I helped out doing property protection and deliver a car-load of goodies collected by Fairfield Station staff on to Balmoral Fire Station – much needed supplies for those in need.”

    Graeme also spent a few days last week on the fire ground at Voyager Point with fellow RFS volunteer and Sydney Trains employee Mick Jackson, working to manage, contain and control a fire which came close many houses.

  • Our bushfire volunteers: Paul Davison

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    Paul Davison, Safety, Environment and Quality Regulation (SEQR)

    An SEQR Safety Professional for Engineering & Maintenance, Paul was up near the Central Coast working on the Mangrove Mountain fires in early December.

    “We were lucky in the fact that most of the work we conducted was back burning to contain the main fire fronts and assisting with protection of properties in that area,” says Paul, who has been an RFS member for just over three years.

    “There were plenty of concerned locals we interacted with during our time there.”

    The hardest part of the work has been seeing a completely blacked, barren landscape left behind after the fires have torn through, as well as damaged or lost property, he says.

    Paul’s RFS volunteering shifts in December were typically long days. They usually began with around one to two hours travel time to the staging area, before 12 hours on the fire ground.

    After that, there was the travel back, plus the time taken to clean up the vehicle and equipment so it was ready to go for the next day.

    “I know for my wife and family it is very tough as most of the time we don’t have phone service and can be gone for up to 16 hours at a time,” says Paul, who is a member of the Beacon Hill Brigade.

  • Register now for a bushfire support webinar

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    Over the last few months, many of our people across the Transport cluster have been personally impacted by the unprecedented nature of the bushfires or are feeling overwhelmed and distressed by the ongoing news. During this worrying and stressful time, it is important that we think about our own wellbeing and keep an eye out for each other.

    Bushfire support webinars

    If you’re affected or feeling anxious and would like some support during this difficult time, there are a numbers of options available.

    Starting last week, we have been running bushfire support webinars to help us understand how disasters such as these can impact an individual’s mental health and wellbeing and information on continued support. These webinars are available to all managers, staff and contractors. They may be particularly useful for those who have team members, family or friends affected by the bushfire crises, whether directly, or indirectly.

    There are still two sessions available. Click on one of the links below to register and secure a spot:

    More support for our people

    You and your family can access our employee assistance program by calling 1300 360 364 should you need support. This service is free-of-charge and confidential. There is also some additional information available to support you during this time on the Benestar Hub. For help accessing the hub, call 1300 360 364.

    All our employees are also encouraged to visit the Staywell Hub to access a range of information and resources to facilitate self-care and support.

    For information about all the support options available to you, please visit the bushfire support website at

  • 15 January - Elizabeth Mildwater: Getting support during the bushfire crisis is important

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    Hello everyone,

    Thankfully the bushfires have eased in many areas over the past couple of days, with some much needed rain falling across NSW. But we’re still being urged by the emergency services to take care and stay safe. Heavy storms are predicted across parts of NSW from Thursday this week, which may cause run-off, flash flooding or potential landslides.

    The bushfire crisis is now in both response and recovery phases. Many of you will be involved and you may now be looking for some extra help or know people who need support.

    Across Transport, we’ve put in place a range of leave provisions to use if you’re impacted. Everyone’s situation is different, so please speak with your manager about the arrangements that are right for you and call Transport Shared Services on 133 877 if you have any further questions.

    One area I’d like to emphasise is mental health. It’s important to understand that you (and the people around you) may be struggling because of what you’ve seen, experienced or even read in the coverage recently. It’s not uncommon for us to feel distressed, tired and overwhelmed when we’re trying to cope with the magnitude of disasters like this one.

    I lived in Victoria at the time of the 2009 fires and for several years afterwards. I know from that experience just how important it is for people to get the right support when they are dealing with trauma. This particularly applies to our responders, who go above and beyond in circumstances such as these, but can sometimes set aside the impact on themselves. When people don’t seek support it can have long lasting impact on communities, well beyond the physical restoration of houses and services. It’s important to seek support early but it’s never too late.

    So please think about your own wellbeing and keep an eye out for your workmates, friends and neighbours. Take the time to check in with others – remember that question, are you OK? We’ve practiced it before. Now is a good time to use it.

    We have support available for you which is summarised in this new factsheet on health, safety and wellbeing. You can also register for one of the upcoming bushfire support webinars, which start this Thursday 16 January. These will help our people understand how a disaster can impact an individual’s mental health and wellbeing, and will provide information on continued support.

    Many of you have already played a critical role in helping customers and communities and many more would like to continue helping in any way you can. The best way is to make donations to the charities supporting the bushfires. You can do that through our Workplace Giving Program, which is currently available to those of you in Sydney Trains, NSW TrainLink and STA and will shortly be offered to Sydney Metro and TfNSW as well. Or you can find other ways to donate here.

    Visit the site for details on the webinars, information on what’s happening with the bushfires and useful support tools. And if you are interested in contributing your skills or ideas in the relief and recovery efforts, you can register your interest online.

    Finally, I’d like to thank everyone again who has worked to help our customers and communities during the crisis, for the extraordinary effort you’ve put in and the level of care you’ve shown people across the state.

    Stay safe and please look after each other.

    Elizabeth Mildwater

    Acting Secretary
  • Our bushfire volunteers: Jon Giffney

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    Jon Giffney, Engineering & Maintenance

    An incredible group of Sydney Trains volunteers have been helping to fight the fires since the beginning of the 2019/2020 season, nearly six months ago. In this story Jon Giffney speaks about his experiences on the front line.

    He says he learns a lot from volunteering with the SES, and that it helps him in his management role at Sydney Trains. But he says it works both ways, and his management experience at Sydney Trains has also helped him to become a valuable volunteer leader.

    Track and Structures Team Manager based at Wyong, Jon Giffney has been volunteering with the State Emergency Services (SES) for 15 years.

    So far this fire season, Jon has taken Christmas Day off, but otherwise has been working or helping to fight fires nearly every day since early November.

    His SES role involves helping to clear fallen trees from isolated roads so people can evacuate, as well as cutting down roadside trees that have been damaged by fire, making them a hazard for road users and other emergency services including the NSW RFS.

    “Some of these trees are up to 100 years old. The fire can burn the inside of the trunk – so it’s not obvious from the outside – but it makes it them very dangerous. We call them ‘candles’.

    “Our job is to clear roads so people in isolated areas can get out if and when they need to.”

    Much of his SES work this season has centred on the Central Coast, most recently around the Mangrove Mountain area, but over the last three months he’s also travelled to Bobin, north of Taree and down to Ku-ring-gai chase area to help.

    It’s dangerous work, but he knows he’s playing an important role and he says his manager understands the commitment and makes arrangements so he can have Special Leave. “It’s much more difficult for volunteers who are running their own businesses.”

    He says the length of this season and its intensity has meant there’s been a special need for him to set aside time to spend with his family, including his two children aged 10 and 13.

    And as is the case for so many who’ve been helping to fight the fires, he says the last two weeks have seen fatigue begin to kick in.

  • Tireless work keeps our customers and communities connected

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    Over the last few months, our teams across the state have put in an extraordinary effort to support communities in responding to the bushfire crisis. Throughout this time, our people have shown amazing resilience, professionalism and care.

    We have hundreds of staff out in the fire-affected regions helping to coordinate the response including managing road closures on the ground, directing customers to alternative routes and services, geotechnical and arborist teams inspecting roads and rail line conditions, and crews clearing vegetation and debris under catastrophic conditions.

    So what kinds of work are we doing?

    Keeping things moving with a proactive approach with customers and industry

    Throughout the bushfires, regional teams in partnership with the Transport Management Centre have taken a proactive approach where possible to keep customers and industry informed as early as possible of road closures and service disruptions with some of the most significant impacts including multiple road closures in both directions along the Princes Highway given the ongoing fires along the South Coast.

    In particular, the Currowan bushfire has burnt over 308 thousand hectares since it began in late November, causing major road closures affecting both the Princes and Kings highways in December, which in turn impacted freight deliveries to and from Batemans Bay. To assist the local community, regional Transport teams took proactive steps to improve freight movements and ensure food, fuel and other supplies could reach the area. This included accelerating the assessment of fire damaged sections of the Princes highway to ensure timely recovery efforts to safely re-open roads for the community.

    NSW TrainLink teams were swift to replace train services on the Blue Mountains line as a result of bushfire damage to sections of the track and signalling structures, while coaches replace trains for the entire journey Dubbo to Broken Hill journey. Crews are working hard to restore infrastructure including overhead power to run electric trains with resumption of services to be determined later this month.

    Additionally, Maritime teams are also working hand in hand with a number of water-based agencies including the Rural Fire Service and Marine Area Command to ensure boaters are safe, and are assisting with the delivery of provisions and supplies and evacuations by water, as needed.

    Repairs to the network

    Crews are also carrying out much needed repairs on some parts of the transport networks. As significant fires continue to burn across most of our state, impacting our people, our network and our customers, crews have been working hard to start assessing the impact caused to roads and the rail network.

    Recovery efforts continue in the northern area of the state following fires from mid-2019 including the Oxley and Gwydir highways, critical east–west links for communities and freight. Due to the extensive damage to safety barriers and guardrails, culverts, signs and some retaining wall structures, work to restore the highway will take several months while road conditions continue to be monitored daily and traffic management arrangements adjusted to improve safety and travel efficiency.

    What are the priority areas?

    The priority areas for the next few weeks are the South Coast, Snowy Mountains and Monaro, and Southern Highlands with a number of active fires still present. The focus of Transport teams will be the assessment of the road and rail network, including the assessment and removal of hazardous trees and power poles, making the network safe to be travelled.

    The focus will then shift to coordinating a program of works, where needed, with Local Councils to address infrastructure and asset damage such as replacing safety barriers and signage, repairing road surfaces and reinstating line marking. Where possible, work will start immediately to open roads where minor work, such as the removal of dangerous trees and emergency road surface repairs, are required.

Page published: 12 March 2020, 16:23