IT IS clear that RFS volunteer fire investigator Rick Miller took a long time to come forward and raise his concerns in public about "respect and resources" for volunteer fire investigators.
The man who can point to more than 30 years as an RFS volunteer, including as a fire investigator in the Central Coast and Hunter areas since 2006, loves the RFS, its people, its role in the community and the part he has been able to play in bringing arsonists to justice.
The fact that a number of those arsonists have been RFS volunteers has been an extremely unfortunate part of his work, but has not stopped him from the kind of investigations that have been praised by the RFS, NSW Police and a Crown prosecutor for their reliability and thoroughness.
So his resignation in 2019, and the responses by the RFS to both the concerns he raised and his decision to leave, are rightly a public matter, particularly a day after the funeral of Samuel McPaul, an RFS volunteer who died on December 30 fighting fires near Albury during this most tragic of fire seasons.
Mr Miller has provided evidence to back his argument that volunteer fire investigators are being increasingly relied on to do work in a specialist field, alongside and with investigators from NSW Police and NSW Fire and Rescue, but without the resources reflecting the amount of time required to do the work.
An ageing RFS vehicle that he had been able to keep at home for years, but which was suddenly reclaimed as a pool car, became the flashpoint which led to the resignation. But as this season's fires have shown, a flashpoint needs a build-up of fuel and specific conditions to end badly.
The RFS relies heavily on its volunteers to train, turn up and give to the community. It is only through this long and catastrophic season that governments across Australia have been forced to reconsider whether a volunteer model without any recompense is suited to the types of fires we might now be facing on a regular basis.
Mr Miller supports an independent commission of inquiry into issues raised during this fire season. An RFS structure with an increasingly large and well paid management level needs to tread lightly and carefully when it introduces policies that fail to acknowledge the commitment shown, often for years, by unpaid volunteers.
The public expects that.