Australian Prime Minister works a night shift on the fire line

Prime Minister Tony Abbott
Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives a thumbs up after a night shift helping to backburn with the NSW Rural Fire Service

The new Prime Minister of Australia, in office for a month, apparently is not your ordinary chief of state. During the recent rash of bushfires in New South Wales, Tony Abbott worked a night shift helping back burn near Bilpinwith with his Davidson Fire Service Brigade from Sydney’s Warringah Pittwater Rural Fire District. Mr. Abbott has been a volunteer with the Rural Fire Service Brigade for 13 years and is qualified as a specialist breathing apparatus operator, chainsaw operator, and tanker driver.

There are reports that the Prime Minister’s firefighting activities have been a challenge for his Australian Federal Police security detail charged with his protection.

In addition to serving as a firefighter, Mr. Abbott in the past has volunteered as a teacher in remote Aboriginal Communities. Before he was elected he promised he would continue to live one week a year in similar communities after becoming Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott with fellow firefighters
Prime Minister Tony Abbott with fellow firefighters from the Davidson Rural Fire Brigade.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

11 thoughts on “Australian Prime Minister works a night shift on the fire line”

  1. This is a very encouraging sign for the world’s leaders. Mr. Gabbert, are the roll down window shields standard equipment? Seems like Australia has done a lot of testing and research on sheltering in apparatus.

    1. Zero, many engines in Australia have the roll-down fire shields, and some have external sprinklers located around the vehicle that can be activated in case of an entrapment.

      Perhaps someone from Australia can give us more information.

      1. I’ve been a volunteer Rural Fire Service member in NSW for 12 years. Our village RFS unit has a Cat.1 truck like the one you see Tony Abbott in. All Cat.1’s are fitted with either the reflective roll-downs or heat-curtains. I’m not sure about the other, smaller engines used by various brigades but I suspect they have something similar.

        Some of the newer model Cat.1;s have external sprinklers on the bullbars (and they can be switched to operate one side or the other or the whole length of the bar to help with blacking out), over the wheel hubs and on top of the truck. The older Cat.1’s only have the roof sprinkler.

        But like most diesel motors, oxygen is needed for the engine to run. Heaven forbid if the oxygen is sucked up by the fire and the engine stalls as this means the pump and/sprinklers will cease to work. No protection for the vehicle or its crew. 🙁

        If anyone is interested in following the fires in NSW you can get updated information from the RFS website –

      2. Cant speak for the other states but in QLD all our yellow trucks (volunteer bushfire fighter appliances) have had interior curtains fit retrospectively and all new trucks come with them.

        Exterior sprinklers are a brigade by brigade decisions

  2. What kind of a Leader can this guy be: a teacher and Volunteer firefighter? He should follow the “American model”: no Military service, go to Law School, get a 3-piece suit, join a big Investment Bank, then run for office as a “man of the People”.

    As the Aussies say: ” Good on you, Mr. Abbott.”

  3. When I read the headline, I was thinking photo op stunt. After reading further and noting he has been a volunteer for 13 years, I’m thinking here is someone who really is devoted to public service.

    1. Jim, I thought the same thing at first, but after discovering he has been a volunteer firefighter for 13 years and has volunteered as a teacher in remote Aboriginal Communities, I changed my mind. If it was simply a photo op stunt he would not have chosen the night shift.

  4. Hi, yes Tony Abbott is the real deal, he a vol firey, competes in triathlons and is a die hard cyclist. Its not stunt he genuinely believes in community, I don’t necessarily believe in his politics all the time but respect him for his connection and commitment.
    All Victorian tankers that are tasked into wild fires are fitted with crew protection sprays and radiant heat shields (curtains) amongst other safety equipment.

    Cheers from OZ


  5. The fire barrier curtains shown rolled up on the cab are standard equipment now in most states in Australia. It was developed in the U.S. and performance was verified in state of the art apparatus burnover tests and proper engineering of a series of protective curtains custom fitted to each style of cab. During the bushfires in Victoria in February 2009 there were 18 people burned over in fire apparatus; there were no injuries. Why don’t we have them on Federal and State wildfire fire apparatus in the United States?

  6. It is refreshing to see this kind of service from an elected official. I think our politicians here in the US need to take lessons from this guy. Cheers.

    1. Good on you, Tony Abbott! Nice to see an elected official who actually is in touch with what the people need!

      And Boo to the American Elected Officials. America’s politicians need to take lessons not only from this guy, but from any adult with a lick of sense. America’s need to quit acting like a bunch of spoiled 5-year-old brats and put on your big boy (and girl) knickers!

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