Fireys need fresh blood
Ageing force desperate to recruit youth
UNTIL recent weeks the start to the 2017 fire season had been a vicious one with conditions only set to worsen over coming months.
Rain has slowed things but what hasn’t slowed is the call by our local fireys for more boots on the ground.
Area fire brigades are ageing and new faces are becoming harder to find.
Rural Fire Service deputy group officer James Massey says they’d had a few younger people join the ranks but needed more desperately.
“If we don’t get these young people coming in, I don’t know what’s going to happen to the rural fire service,” he said.
“Reality is, men of our age, we’re at the end of our fighting times.
“We really need to be getting people in their 40s.
“The 40-year-olds are the sort of people who are old enough that they can absorb what we’re teaching but not that old they’re getting around with walking frames.”
With 13 brigades locally, RFS group officer Roni Bau said it was time more people in the community put up their hands.
“There’s certain brigades that just haven’t got the manpower to do what they need to do,” he said.
“If the members of the community step up... we are protecting their places, we’re leaving our places, every one of us, to protect somebody else’s property.
“Maybe they step up and join a brigade and go to four training sessions a year, eight hours a year.
“The community’s just not stepping up: they expect us to be there which, as group officer, is starting to hurt a little bit.”
Where the brigade has found some recruitment luck is through its school-based Certificate 2 program.
Run for a ninth time in 2017, it’s retained a few participants.
Junior firefighter Tom Furness said: “I didn’t realise I wanted to do something like this until I did it (Certificate 2). I hope a lot of other young kids decide they want to do the same and enjoy it.”
The junior fireys are in agreement – they’ve learnt life experiences, gained a possible career path, mates, and are serving their community.
“We’re not here for a pretty uniform ... we are here to do a hardcore community service,” senior firefighter Gary Tutt said.
Reality is, men of our age, we’re at the end of our fighting times.
— Deputy Group Officer James Massey
SACRIFICE: Rural fireys (from left) Zac Connolly, Tom Furness, deputy group officer James Massey, group officer Roni Bau, Gary Tutt, Brian Hill and Riley Boston.