Greg Mullins is the second Commissioner to ever be appointed to Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) after the position was created combining the roles of the Board of Fire Commissioners of NSW and the role of Chief Officer into one. Serving as Commissioner from 2003 to 2017, Mullins instituted tremendous change to the organisation, however, let's take a look at his early beginnings.
Born on the 18 June 1959 at Manly Hospital, Mullins would grow up in the northern suburbs of Sydney. From the age 12 Mullins had his sights set on becoming a firefighter after he assisted his father battling a massive bushfire at Duffy’s Forest that threated their home. Mullins’ father was a part of the Terrey Hills Bushfire Brigade (now the Rural Fire Service, RFS) which would see Mullins join his local brigade, Duffy’s Forest Bushfire Brigade at the age of 13. Although, it would not be long until Greg would join his father as a member of the Terrey Hills Bushfire Brigade, which he did when he was 16. His passion for firefighting would never cease and as soon as he completed his HSC, he applied for the New South Wales Fire Brigade (NSWFB; now FRNSW), successfully achieving entry at the age of 18.
As an early firefighter Mullins would become quite involved in the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) contributing to the organisation in the roles of state council firefighter’s representative, as well as progressing to be the Vice President and Secretary of the Union in the late 1970s to early 1980s. His heart always called back to the bush, and during 1984 he was regularly seconded to the bushfire section as the Blue Mountains Hazard Reduction Officer. Once Mullins achieved the rank of Station Officer these secondments no longer took place, however, he transitioned into a new role, that being the Sydney Region hazard Reduction Officer, otherwise known as BFO3. He would hold this title until the position became removed from the Bushfire Section of the Brigade.
Mullins would continue to climb the ranks and realised that this would be his pathway if he wished to be involved with bush firefighting efforts, as a result, he became a District Officer in 1992. By 1995 Mullins had become a Superintendent and was awarded the Churchill Fellowship. The Fellowship allowed Mullins to investigate bushfire behaviour and the use of modern technologies and management systems in bushfire control. His studies saw him focus particularly on the United States and their responses to bushfires. The Fellowship allowed him to travel to the United States to see this firsthand along with other countries in Europe such as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Canada all across a period of 3 months.
As a result of his studies abroad Mullins would wish to see the Incident Control System utilised by the Phoenix Fire Department in the USA, implemented in Australia. His studies overseas also saw his desire to introduce defensive and offensive firefighting strategies and in particular, implement official training into building collapse rescue, which would grow to become Urban Search and Rescue, USAR. Following on from his role as Superintendent, Mullins would advance to Assistant Commissioner in 1996.
The Commissioner during the late 90s, Ian MacDougall wished to set up that his successor was well qualified by having a diverse range of experiences as well as coming from within the ranks of the brigade. In doing this he extended some members of the executive leadership team outside their comfort zones into seconded positions into different industries. Mullins would end up being one of these firefighters, being seconded for 12 months in 1997 to be the project manager of BOC Gasses, a bulk gas business which dealt with common products such as oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and argon. Mullins role in the business was to combine seven customer service centres into one, streamlining operational practices and increasing efficiency. During this time as well, Mullins would study and complete his qualifications for a Master of Management from Macquarie University.
By 2001, Mullins was awarded the Australian Fire Service Medal (AFSM) and upon the retirement of Commissioner MacDougall in 2003, saw Mullins appointed to the role on the 4th of July. At age 44 he’s the second youngest leader of the Fire Brigade, with the first Chief Officer back in 1884, William Bear being the youngest who was 35 when he was appointed to his role.
Time as Commissioner of FRNSW
A number of changes came into effect during Mullins time in the role of Commissioner of FRNSW with some of his earliest achievements being the procurement of an aerial appliance, sharing custody of a helicopter with the police. A tremendous amount of procedural and system changes took place between internal communications, Incident Crew Management Systems, Alarm Response Protocols, new codes, and new call signs. It was in 2009 that the inter-agency CAD electronic messaging system (ICEMS) was introduced and first adopted by FRNSW, allowing for incident data to be shared with Police and The Roads and Traffic Authority much more seamlessly, with the old system being to convey this information over the phone. With a shift in procedures and protocols also came a shift in workplace culture with FRNSW the first NSW Government agency to sign the Union NSW’s Dignity and Respect in the Workplace Charter to combat bullying and harassment at work. FRNSW would also participate in the Mardi Gras Parade for the first time in 2007, having over 50 staff participate and share fire safety in the home messages, as well as displaying FRNSW’s engagement of workplace and community diversity.
Mullins oversaw and advocated on behalf of FRNSW to implement legal reforms to make people and property more fire safe. Firstly, as Commissioner he campaigned for smoke alarms to become a mandatory requirement in homes after a sequence of several deaths by fire, the campaign ultimately successful and enacted in 2006. This would then progress to be a legal requirement in caravans and mobile homes in 2011. Furthermore, the Brigade would campaign for reforms on cigarettes as leading cause of fire outbreaks. After campaigning for years, success was eventually seen with FRNSW and the NSW Government able to influence and implement a national standard for cigarettes, requiring all manufactures to produce and sell in Australia only self-extinguishing cigarettes.
Commissioner Greg Mullins on the Daily Edition Channel 7, 2016
During his time as Commissioner, Mullins led the Brigade through many notable incidents such as the Ethanol Tank Fire at Port Kembla in 2004, the Hazelwood open-cut mine fire of 2014 and of course, the bushfires of 2013. Under his development of the USAR Task Force, firefighters assisted with medical, search and rescue, HAZMAT, engineering, and logistics support for several crises such as he Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, the Java Earthquakes in 2006 and the Christchurch Earthquake of 2011. Commissioner Mullins’ career is nothing short of impressive, from his time when he was only 12 years old battling bushfires with his father all the way to his time in the role of Commissioner, he has left a lasting impact on the service shaping the agency to be prepared for anything.
-Story by Museum Curator, Ben Dickson