NSW RFS recognises Mars as a supportive employer of firies

TEAM: RFS volunteers Nathan Cooper, John Townsend and Darren Gugger are congratulated by Pat Westwood with their fellow members Lisa Wilkie and Natasha Hedrick. Mars has won a supportive employer award. Picture: MARK JESSER

Mars Petcare has been recognised by the NSW Rural Fire Service for the support the company’s employees receive when duty calls.

Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers presented Supportive Employers Awards to 12 businesses in Sydney on Thursday.

Thurgoona RFS captain Darren Gugger accepted the award for Mars Wodonga, which has nine staff who are with the RFS.

“It was really great to see such a diverse range of employers there,” he said.

“Luckily it’s not every week we get called to fires, but some of the biggest commitments are when you have out-of-area appointments for strike teams, and you can be away from work for three to five days.

“We’ve been very lucky.”

Mr Gugger began working with Mars 37 years ago and has been a volunteer firefighter since then.

“I started on a farm and you didn’t have much choice in those days,” he said.

“Over summer you get busy – but then the day on April (12) this year was probably the busiest we’ve had in a long time as far as the number of call-outs go.

“We’ve had bigger fires, but that was a lot of different fires in one day.”

Of the nine volunteers, they have varying histories with RFS – Natasha Hedrick and Lisa Wilkie have both signed on in the past three years.

“We moved here from England and I didn’t know what to do in a bushfire, so I had community support training with Darren and then joined,” Ms Wilkie said.

Nathan Cooper said there was also a number of his Mars colleagues who fought fires on the other side of the border.

“It’s cross-border here – we’re RFS but we work in Wodonga and there’s other people who are involved in emergency services,” he said.

Southern Border Superintendent Patrick Westwood said the eight RFS volunteers, who have roles at Mars varying from payroll manager to maintenance, brought skills to the fire service.

“Natasha brings community relations, John is IT and has helped us a lot, and Darren has attended some pretty technical jobs,” he said.

“We hope to continue to acknowledge the support from all of our employers across the district and congratulate Mars on their achievement, which recognises many years of support.”

Aside from assisting their employees who are with a fire service or similar organisations, Mars also offers two days every year for community leave, for activities like volunteering at an event.

The Supportive Employer Program was launched in March 2013 and since then 72 businesses have received awards and a further 248 have been given certificates of appreciation.