Australia

Fire chief lays out his priorities for next summer

Better respiratory gear and helmets for firefighters, improving truck safety and working more closely with farmers are among the top priorities for Rural Fire Service chief Rob Rogers.

Commissioner Rogers had his appointment extended indefinitely on Thursday despite the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements having yet to release their findings. Mr Rogers year-long interim role was due to expire next April.

New RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers has had little time to celebrate the news as he prepares for the coming fire season.

New RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers has had little time to celebrate the news as he prepares for the coming fire season. Credit:Nick Moir

Mr Rogers said he marked the announcement - relayed to him by phone on Wednesday evening - by a single celebratory drink before getting back to preparing for the coming fire season amid the added challenges of COVID-19.

Among a to-do list of nine priorities for the RFS are better protective gear and equipment for volunteers, upgrading internal communications and working with farmers on reducing fuel loads and other issues.

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Expanding mental health resources after last summer's punishing season and recruiting young volunteers are also top of Mr Rogers' agenda.

"It's really important to set those things out and make sure the organisation pivots itself," he said.

Mr Rogers began his RFS career as a volunteer and served nine years as deputy commissioner prior to being elevated to interim chief after Shane Fitzsimmons' retirement in April.

His consolidation in the top role comes before the NSW Bushfire Inquiry is due to finish its report by the end of July and the royal commission a month later.

Trish Doyle, Labor's spokeswoman for Emergency Services, said she had known Mr Rogers "for many years".

"While the timing of this appointment is surprising, I trust Commissioner Rogers will implement the recommendations and suggested changes for the RFS that come out of the inquiries,” she said.

Greens MP David Shoebridge said a decision on Mr Rogers' elevation to the top role should have come after "the inquires have finished", adding "we need to know how the leadership's decisions stacked up".

Phil Koperberg, who was the first RFS commissioner when it was formed in 1997, welcomed the formal appointment of Mr Rogers. He said Mr Rogers had the right characteristics for the job.

"I think it's a very good appointment ... he's very pragmatic, he's a rules man which is necessary for that job," Mr Koperberg said.

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