Edinglassie NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer Jessica Newton shows courage and endurance during fire season

LOCAL HERO: Jess Newton has no regrets about giving up her time and effort to help protect the Upper Hunter community.
LOCAL HERO: Jess Newton has no regrets about giving up her time and effort to help protect the Upper Hunter community.

This is part of Australian Community Media's Heroes of the HomeFront series, which is looking to highlight the brave efforts of firefighters all across the country.

NO amount of nerves, danger or unforgiving heat can get in the way of Jessica Newton's desire to help her community.

The Edinglassie NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) brigade member, who is located in Muswellbrook, has been part of the huge effort to limit some of the blazes we have seen across this catastrophic fire season.

Despite having work, social and sporting commitments - as she plays for the local Muswellbrook Cats Australian rules football side - she still managed to find time to have a chat about what motivates her.

Having joined as a volunteer about 12 months ago, the 28-year-old fitted seamlessly into the team, which she said has been hugely welcoming.

"The camaraderie is pretty great... just having the support here from everyone makes it good," she said.

"You can always have a chat to someone if you're not feeling okay."

She also praised the community and the way they have rallied behind emergency services workers.

The level of appreciation people have shown has been extraordinary, and the volunteers are left with no doubt as to how much they are valued, according to the NSW RFS volunteer.

"Even fuelling up the other day, a few people stopped us and said 'thank you', and we get thumbs up from kids when we drive past so that's always pretty cool, too," Newton said.

While the community certainly appreciates them, the reaction they've received from the government has been a little more mixed.

Interestingly, Newton actually believes it will be their reaction to the next fire season that will show how much they've listened.

She also said the government, both state and federal, had "come around" in recent times and begun providing the assistance needed.

When it came to the issue of remuneration, the Australian Rail Track Corporation worker said she felt something could be done.

"My work is really good with supporting me as a volunteer and paying me as if it's a normal work day, but a tax break would be pretty nice," she said.

Creating some form of national register that names volunteers and the amount of hours they have clocked that could then be presented to the government was also raised.

Although Newton acknowledges it would be difficult for the government and private sector to come to an agreement over any potential compensation plan.

While it would be expected that dealing with such devastation would make someone physically and emotionally tired, Newton has again shown her strength and revealed that a short sleep and a chat to the other members of the brigade can help her recover quickly.

Importantly, the fires haven't had an adverse effect on her social and family life.

"My partner has been super supportive," she stated.

"We'll be sitting around the couch and I'll get a fire call and sometimes I ask if it's okay if I go, but she's always pretty supportive about that."

Her attitude is admirable, especially considering that Edinglassie brigade officials even tell their volunteers that family comes first and there's no shame is turning down a call-out.

She never does though, and her NSW RFS colleagues will be pleased to hear there is no end in sight for her career with the service, as she plans to stick around for a long time.

But, hopefully, Newton, nor anyone else in the country, will have to go through a fire season like this again.

It has been Australia's lost summer. Drought, hail, floods and, worst of all, bushfires have ravaged communities all over the nation. But the selfless actions of friends, family, neighbours, strangers, local groups and volunteer organisations have inspired us and strengthened the bonds of community. Please join us in saying thanks to the heroes of the home front by sharing your stories of gratitude. To salute a person or a group, please use the form below.

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