Media fire frenzy descends on Cooma

THE Yarrabin (Mount Forest Road/Carlaminda) fire which started eight days ago has attracted huge media attention and Monaro Team Rural Fire Service officer and Cooma local Fred Nichols has been the 'go to' person for radio, TV, print journalists and camera crews.

Some TV stations sent reporters and "stars" to the region for days at a time, tracking the fires and the fire fighters.

Mr Nichol's usual job as the fire mitigation officer has gone out the door and has been replaced with a media liaison role for the duration of the crisis.

He said about 50 per cent of his time has been spent with the media.

He has a support team around him of volunteers from numerous organisations and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to ensure accurate information about the Yarrabin fire goes to the public through media outlets.

"Every time there is a change in the fire situation we provide updates and warnings to the media and to our volunteers who are on the phones answering inquiries from the public," Mr Nichols said.

"When the situation is severe, sometimes it is every 30 minutes.

"I try to provide the media with as much information as possible."

Due to the size and severity of the fire, a state of emergency was declared, (known as a Section 44), which enables the Rural Fire Service to call on additional resources from a number of government agencies to fight the fire.

In addition to the Rural Fire Service volunteers, and support staff, the firefighting effort has involved the police, ambulance services, Forestry NSW, Fire and Rescue NSW, NPWS, ACT rural fire service and emergency services, special remote area firefighters and strike teams, Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, the Department of Primary Industries, Livestock Health and Pest Authority and public health authorities.

Mr Nichols attends regular multi-agency briefings throughout the day at the Cooma Fire Control Centre at Polo Flat.

The information is then turned into user friendly information that is needed by members of the community in the form of fire updates and warnings.

Assisted by police, Mr Nichols has organised door knocking and letter box drops with fire updates and warnings for residents who may not have mobile phone or internet access in the fire affected Numeralla, Countegany, Nimmitabel and Kybeyan Valley communities.

He has also been involved in three public meetings for Numeralla and Kybeyan Valley and Nimmitabel communities.

While he has been putting in long days, he said the real heroes are out on the fire ground and in the incident control room. "It is the volunteers that make the difference," he said.

"The guys on the end of the hoses are doing all the hard work, in the heat and the dust, and a large number of them are volunteers," Mr Nichols said.

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