NSW Fire and Rescue community engagement crews tasked to West Tamworth after Coledale house fires

ENGAGEMENT: NSW Fire and Rescue's David Weir engages with some young people at the Coledale Community Centre. Photo: Peter Hardin

ENGAGEMENT: NSW Fire and Rescue's David Weir engages with some young people at the Coledale Community Centre. Photo: Peter Hardin

EMERGENCY services have held talks with Coledale community members in the wake of a spate of arson attacks in the past week.

On Tuesday, Fire and Rescue NSW community engagement officers were tasked from Sydney to Tamworth to speak to residents about the ongoing fire issues in the suburb, with firebugs targeting homes, furniture, land and garbage bins.

Officers spoke to young people about fire prevention at the Tamworth Community Centre on Tuesday afternoon before a community barbecue with firefighters, police representatives and rural fire crews at Granny Munro Park on Tuesday night.

Fire and Rescue NSW Aboriginal community engagement officer Susan Gibbs-Kelly said her first visit to Tamworth in the role would not be her last.

“I anticipate having a presence up here to work with the community and Fire and Rescue NSW,” she said.

“One of the reasons I am here is to support the local fire brigade and Aboriginal community and form some sustainable partnerships that will support the community in reducing house fires and to increase the knowledge of prevention of fires.

“It is about us coming together with the community to try and get to the tooth of where the issues are stemming from with the fires, and what it is that we can work together with.”

Ms Gibbs-Kelly said the initial response from the community was positive.

“We don’t know what we’re up against until we form some partnerships and work with organisations like the community centre to be more proactive,” she said.

We’re looking forward to having that interaction with the community and talking to elders about their view on the situation.

Susan Gibbs-Kelly

“We’re looking forward to having that interaction with the community and talking to elders about their view on the situation.

Tamworth Zone fire Superintendent Tom Cooper denied crisis talks with community members but instead described the initiative as a “reactive measure”.

“It’s reaching out to the community and having conversations,” he said.

“This is something we do across the state but Tamworth is getting on the front foot. Obviously this is a reactive initiative to a number of recent fires we’ve had in the area.”

He said local firefighters had used community engagement methods to stem fires in the area before.

“It did the trick last time, straight away the amount of nuisance calls we were getting to small grass fires seemed to slow down,” he said

“We are not just here for just one section of the community but all sections of the community and we want to try and bring the community together. The engagement officers will be coming back during festival time for follow ups and hopefully by putting our messages out there it will help mitigate some of the nuisance fires we have been having in the area.”

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