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20th Anniversary of the Ku-ran-gai Bushfire Tragedy

June 5, 2020

This Monday marks the 20-year-anniversary of the tragic loss of four National Parks and Wildlife Service members who died whilst protecting their local community at Sydney’s Ku-ran-gai National Park.

In one of the darkest day ever to befall the NPWS, veteran officer George Fitzsimmons, 52, Erik Furlan, 51 and Claire Deane, 25, died when their group of seven was engulfed by flames at Ku-ring-gai. Another crew member Mark Cupit died from his burns two months later.

The three surviving crew members – Jamie Shaw, Luke McSweeney and Natalie Saville – all suffered horrific burns when taking part in a routine hazard reduction exercise that went horribly wrong.

The tragedy led to substantial changes to the way hazard reduction burns are now carried out – including better training and accreditation of staff and most importantly an improvement in the quality of mapping provided, which played a major role in the loss of life.

Hazard reduction is, of course, a dangerous activity and the AWU would like to pay tribute to those that lost their lives 20 years ago, but also to all AWU members who fought so hard in the recent bush fire season.

Daniel Walton, National Secretary of The Australian Workers’ Union, said: “The work you do is inherently dangerous. We should take this opportunity to remind all members to take care and extra caution, especially in the colder months. Elements during prescribed burning operations can change rapidly and therefore increase fire behaviour and intensity unexpectedly.

The AWU is proud of our members, your work, efforts and dedication to protecting communities and environments across NSW and beyond. This no means reduces the responsibility to look after yourselves and each other.

“The AWU remembers our fallen and injured colleagues, members and honours this event as a reminder that safety is a priority for all engaged in fire suppression activities across our state and country.”

So please take a moment on this public holiday for many, and pay your respects to our lost colleagues.

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