June 7 - 13, 2020: Issue 453


A Tale Of Two Battlefronts: Noel & Kate Kessel


I’m Noel Kessel and my wife is Kate. We have two beautiful children, Liorah and Avishai. I am a volunteer fireman with the NSW Rural Fire Service, attached to Cottage Point Brigade. My wife Kate is a Registered Nurse with 27 years’ experience. 

During the past Summer I was actively involved with the bushfires that ravaged most of the State. During this period my crew and myself were deployed to fight fires throughout various parts of the state. We spent shifts battling the mammoth Gospers Mountain Fire to the North of Sydney, as well as fires at Bilpin and The Blue Mountains and the ill-fated deadly Buxton Fire South of Sydney. I also did a multi-day deployment at the Creewah Fire near the NSW/Victoria border. 

Cottage Point RFB Members on the firegrounds - CPRFB photo

Cottage Point RFB Members on the firegrounds - CPRFB photo

There are a lot of challenges out on the fireground. Naturally, you always have in the back of your mind that it is a very dangerous activity and that things can go wrong very quickly. One of the most dangerous part of fighting fires is falling trees. Out in the field we call them “widow makers”. On a number of occasions we had near misses with falling trees both on main roads and on dirt tracks. After the main firefront would pass, the fire gets into the trunk of the trees and every now and then without warning you would hear a loud crack and then a loud boom as a large tree crashes to the ground. That’s probably one of the scariest parts of the job. Especially at night. It’s comforting to know that you are working with a bunch of competent and highly skilled guys and girls on the truck and everyone looks after each other. You very quickly form a close bond with your colleagues who become your extended family.

Cottage Point RFB Members - CPRFB photo

Cottage Point RFB Members - CPRFB photo

After we were involved in a fire overrun at Buxton, I tried to keep it quiet from my children. This didn’t last long as it was all over the news the next day along with the tragic details of the 5 fireman who suffered serious burns and the two who died when a tree fell onto their firetruck. Not only did it send a shiver up my spine, but it really spooked my son Avishai. He became very attached and clingy and was very anxious and emotional whenever I would head off to the fire station. On one occasion he grabbed me and whilst crying refused to let go. Clearly this was all having an effect on him. On the upside, whenever I would return he would always greet me with a huge embrace and a hug. 

My daughter Liorah seemed to be handling it all pretty well, even to the point that she has joined the Northern Beaches Rural Fire Service Cadet Program. Obviously it was also a challenging time for my wife when I was away. Often I would return home in the early hours of the morning and attempt to creep into bed without waking her. I didn’t always succeed. Being alone with the kids and having to do almost everything single handed was not easy. This while having to work full time. Thankfully my parents were also invaluable in helping us all out both physically and emotionally.

In March things started to settle down but then we were faced with heavy storms and days of attending storm related incidents all around Sydney.

And just when you thought normality was returning, we were hit with the Corona Virus Pandemic. It was now time for me to hand over the baton to Kate as she was now about to enter this new deadly battle.


I’m Kate and I’m a registered nurse at one of Sydney’s largest hospitals - St. Vincent Hospital.

As the Covid -19 pandemic began to escalate, the daily routine at the hospital began to change. Within days, certain wards were being shut down and transformed into Intensive Care wards in preparation for the influx of the predicted thousands of Covid cases. As the number of cases climbed, so too did our preparedness. Staff were being shuffled around the hospital and strict treatment procedures and protocols were being implemented.

We were instructed to treat every patient as if they were carrying the Covid-19 virus, which meant wearing full PPE attire including surgical gowns, masks, gloves and eye/face protection. Every person who entered the hospital was also required to answer a few questions and have their temperature checked. It was all crazy. The health department estimated that around 45000 people would contract the virus. Thankfully this has not happened and we have been extremely lucky so far and I pray that things will remain this way. This especially in comparison to the rest of the world.

 As the virus took hold around the world, the picture looked very dark and gloomy. As we entered into the lockdown phase, school was suspended for my children and we all had to adapt to home schooling. This was challenging at times but fortunately Noel was able to stay at home with the children., and soon enough the kids began to enjoy this new education concept.

The lockdown also meant that the children couldn’t see their grandparents who they are very close to. The occasional visit was had but with them on their balcony and us down below. Noel also took the children on a number of bushwalks which was a great thing from a mental health perspective. The children also experimented in the kitchen and hot fluffy scones soon became a regular item on the breakfast menu.

Now that life is slowly returning to a somewhat normal routine, it is important not to be complacent but to continue to maintain social distancing. The last thing we need is a second wave of this terrible deadly virus.

COVID-19 Testing

The NSW Government is urging anyone experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to be tested in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 symptoms include:
  • - Fever;
  • - Cough;
  • - Tiredness (fatigue);
  • - Sore throat;
  • - Shortness of breath.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms please:
  • - Contact your GP;
  • - Call Healthdirect on 1800 022 222;
  • -  Visit a NSW Health COVID-19 clinic.
The locations of COVID-19 clinics are available here:

In our area:
Mona Vale Hospital
Address: Building 14, Community Health Centre
Coronation Street, Mona Vale NSW 2103
Opening hours: 10am to 6pm, 7 days

Northern Beaches Hospital
Address: 105 Frenchs Forest Road (west), Frenchs Forest, NSW 2086
Rear of Emergency Department (secluded mental health entry)
Opening hours: 9:30am to 6pm, 7 days

Cottage Point Rural Fire Brigade

Cottage Point Rural Fire Brigade is situated north of Sydney within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park in the community of Cottage Point. Cottage Point RFB operates within the Northern Beaches Rural Fire Service District. It's members are all volunteers .

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CottagePointRuralFireBrigade
Postal Address - Cottage Point Road, Cottage Point, 2084
Brigade Contact - 9456 7444
Email -  cottagepointrfs@idx.com.au
Brigade Training Details - Training is held 3rd Monday of every Month.
Brigade Meeting Details - General Meetings are held 1st Monday of every Month.

Cottage Point RFB Members on the firegrounds - CPRFB photo