AS 17 FIRES raged across the Northern Rivers over the weekend, 40 dedicated Rural Fire Service volunteers put their lives on the line for up to 12 hours a day.
But this is nothing new for these people who give their time freely according to Northern Rivers Rural Fire Service Operations Officer Daniel Ainsworth.
Mr Ainsworth said when strong winds whipped up treacherous fire conditions on Saturday and a number of hazard reduction burns got out of control, volunteers were faced with areas of bush that had not burned since the 1950s.
"They put in a phenomenal amount of hours and they are all volunteers," he said.
As the blazes raged into Sunday, fixed-wing water bombing planes were brought in to replace a water bombing helicopter used on Saturday.
Mr Ainsworth said due to the hard work of the volunteers all blazes had been contained by 9.30pm on Sunday.
"Hopefully they won't be out doing 12-hour shifts today as they are only patrolling to see that the fires are contained."
Mr Ainsworth said with the opening of the Northern Rivers Zone Fire Control Centre on Saturday they now had a state-of-the-art facility to manage the 800 volunteers, 48 brigades and 80 trucks across three local government areas.
RFS Northern Rivers zone manager Michael Brett said irresponsible landowners caused many of the blazes.
"They lit fires and subsequently they got away, out of control, well and truly out of control," he said.
"It is concerning to the service that landholders are being so irresponsible and not looking at the weather conditions."
Mr Brett said there were severe penalties for landowners who lit fires that spread to neighbouring properties.
The forty volunteers came from brigades including:
- Middle Creek
- Myall Creek
- North Casino
- Old Bonalbo
- Hogarth Range