No ordinary day at Albion Park control centre

The lack of available parking was the first sign that Tuesday was no ordinary day at Albion Park's Rural Fire Service regional headquarters.

RFS cars of all shapes and sizes spilled out of the car parks on both sides of the modern building nestled in the grounds of the Albion Park airport.

Police cars lined the nearby grassy verge, intermingled with SES four-wheel-drives and several private vehicles parked along the kerb.

A steady stream of uniformed men and women representing the suite of NSW emergency service agencies filed in and out of the headquarters, the nerve centre for the Illawarra's response to fire threat.

They came hoping for the best but prepared for the worst.

"We're ramped up to the point that all our brigades are on standby [and] NSW Fire and Rescue has brought in additional resources from Sydney into the Illawarra," said NSW RFS superintendent Richard Cotterill, the man heading the mammoth task of co-ordinating the fire response.

When not leading the two-hourly briefings, he split his time between taking updates from field crews and monitoring changing weather patterns via the Bureau of Meteorology.

With the Illawarra facing catastrophic fire conditions yesterday, the magnitude of the day and the threat to the region were inescapable.

"It's certainly something [I] have to take seriously," Mr Cotterill said, when asked about the personal pressure of such a task.

"[But] as the manager for the Illawarra, I surround myself with great people."

Mr Cotterill reserved special praise for Yvonne Davis and Noel Taylor, Country Women's Association volunteers who kept the workers fed and watered during the day.

"The CWA is all about community, so anything we can do to help we will," Mrs Davis said.

Mr Taylor, who classifies himself as a "CWA husband", said the duo clocked on at 9am and did not expect to leave until 9pm last night, after ensuring the emergency service personnel all had dinner.

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