Shane Fitzsimmons is what a real leader looks like.

As we watch our country burn, there’s one face that has risen above the rest.

A calming but empathetic, direct but respectful presence amidst bushfire devastation that has shocked Australians the country over.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons is the leader we’re looking to right now. The beacon of knowledge, wisdom, and professionalism we’re craving as our country falls down around us and fires continue to burn out of control.

Studio Ten are also full of praise for the Commissioner this morning. Post continues after video.

Video via Ten

He’s there on our TV screens and on the airwaves when we wake up in the morning, and he is still briefing, talking, reassuring and warning until the last news bulletin of the night.

He’s been surviving on little sleep, pulling 18-hour shifts, and it’s important to note, he’s been doing so for months. This bushfire crisis has been raging since November and he’s been consistent in his leadership of the world’s largest fire service, consisting of some 74,000 volunteers.

He’s visiting disaster zones, attending funerals for the fallen, fronting every media outlet that needs an update, and giving his expertise to strategy rooms that are working out how to disperse and relieve exhausted crews on the ground.

Firefighters Continue To Battle Bushfires As Catastrophic Fire Danger Warning Is Issued In NSW
NSW Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons talks to media at the NSW Headquarters. Image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty.

While criticism grows and political bat-swinging reaches fever pitch against the man the country is supposed to be turning to for leadership at a time of crisis, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons has managed to stay out of it and focus on the job at hand. Until the weekend that is, when he cracked.

The Prime Minister was forced to apologise to him after it was revealed in a public press conference that Scott Morrison had updated the NSW Premier Gladys Berejilkian, but failed to tell Fitzsimmons that he was sending in military reinforcements.

Instead, he found out via media reports on the worst day for his fire crews - the Saturday just gone that broke international heat records and a day when Fitzsimmons' crews bunkered down in catastrophic conditions.

Fitzsimmons called it a "breakdown in communication" and then expressed his "disappointment and frustration" before putting it aside, and getting on with his job. A job that we are so thankful he is in; a leader we are so desperately in need of right now.

"We'd follow him anywhere," an exhausted Bundanoon firefighter is quoted as saying in The Daily Telegraph, proving Fitzsimmons doesn't just have the country's public captivated, he's also a hero among heroes as well.

Shane Fitzsimmons and firies
Shane Fitzsimmons and some Picton based firies, Image: Twitter @RFSCommissioner.

So to Shane Fitzsimmons, we are so proud to have you leading us right now as our country tackles something so big and so scary.

You are a pillar of strength amongst seas of distress, anger and fear.

We know you need a break, and probably a beer and definitely eight hours uninterrupted sleep right now (as does the rest of your 74,000 firies). But we're so appreciative you're here, looking out for our country, showing us what true leadership looks like in a time of crisis.

Who is Shane Fitzsimmons?

Shane Fitzsimmons joined the NSW Rural Fire Service in 1985 as a 15-year-old, and worked his way up the ranks. He was working in the car industry as well, until he went full time in firefighting in 1994.

He has been in this current role, in charge of the NSW brigades, since 2007. Then aged 44, he was the youngest commissioner in RFS history.

Shane Fitzsimmons when he became RFS Commissioner in 2007. Image: AAP Image/NSW Rural Fire Service.

The danger the bushfires present, and the deaths that have occurred this season are horrendous for any fire chief, but for Fitzsimmons, it's even more personal.

Twenty years ago, he lost his own father George Fitzsimmons to a hazard-reduction burning gone wrong.

His dad was 53 at the time, and was working as a volunteer in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in Sydney. Three others also died that day.


Instead of turning his back on work that had led to his father's death, The Australian reports George's death only made Fitzsimmons more committed and driven.

“If I was honest, it strengthened my resolve to be part of this organisation, and in making sure the ­strategies, equipment and ­operations that we deploy are done in a way that maximises firefighter safety," he told the publication.

"Every family has the right to expect their loved ones to come home after a shift."

Speaking about that day in 2013 with The Sunday Telegraph, Fitzsimmons said something went "horribly wrong," and he just wishes he could have five minutes to talk to his dad about what happened.

An image from our current devastating fire season made Fitzsimmons' loss that much more poignant, a photo of him pinning a posthumous bravery award on the tiny RFS uniform worn by 19-month-old Harvey Keaton, whose dad - a firefighter - died in December.

Geoffrey Keaton and his colleague Andrew O'Dwyer were fighting a blaze south-west of Sydney when their RFS truck struck a fallen tree crushing the vehicle. O'Dwyer also has a 19-month-old daughter who has also lost her dad. Charlotte was born just a few days apart from Harvey.


Speaking to The Telegraph, Shane said he gets "cranky with myself for not holding it together" when there are lives lost, with his wife adding in the interview that "he [Shane] is a very humble person and he doesn't take accolades very well."

Shane Fitzsimmons and his wife Lisa have been together since they were teenagers. They met through the Fire Service - her dad was working at the brigade he joined.

Shane, his wife Lisa and daughter Sarah (left) and daughter Lauren (right). Image: Facebook.

They live on Sydney's northern beaches and have two daughters, Lauren and Sarah, who are in their early 20s now.

Lauren has followed her dad into the emergency services, working as a nurse in Gosford.

Shane Fitzsimmons' leadership hasn't gone unnoticed.

Shane Fitzsimmons' impeccable leadership at this time of crisis has been recognised all over the country.

He and his tens of thousands of firefighters on the ground are the true heroes and leaders right now.