Opinion: What would we ever do without our heroes?

The noble commitment of Western NSW emergency service volunteers to their communities could not be better demonstrated by the time they devoted in the recent floods to saving lives and property.

They spent an incredible 180,000-hours-plus in appalling conditions doing the job. The NSW government says those hours equal $10 million worth of “outstanding community service”. Those hours are equivalent to 22,500 eight-hour working days.

The volunteers, including 450 from the SES, responded to more than 4200 requests for help and carried out 130 flood rescues since August 30.

They are staggering statistics. The workload is phenomenal.

The floods spread devastation across the region. The estimate for total agricultural damage is more than $720 million with more than 145,314 hectares of pasture losses. The figures are expected to rise as more landholders report damage. Many crops will be a complete loss.

In the endless weeks of heavy rain volunteers were out there in all weather conditions and situations – many of them risky.

The volunteers involved in this massive safety exercise perform their roles without pay. They often do it without personal recognition. They are not looking for either. Their reasons for giving are varied but one thing is clear … they are absolutely dedicated to their communities.

Unsung heroes to be sure.

We should not forget the tremendous effort provided by employees in government emergency services, be they paramedics, firefighters, rescue service workers, medical staff and others.

While the devastation was massive, communities could be comforted that they and the volunteers “had our backs”.

The volunteers were praised on Thursday by Deputy Premier and Police Minister Troy Grant and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott.

Mr Grant said: “They all deserve our utmost admiration for volunteering to assist communities in times of extreme hardship and sacrificing time with their families or at their jobs. They deserve the entire state’s gratitude.”

Mr Elliott said: “We thank them for continuing to selflessly put the needs of their community ahead of their own.”

We could not agree with them more.

What would we ever do without these local heroes?