Blaz­ing need for fireys

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - BEN PIKE ANY­ONE IN­TER­ESTED SHOULD GO TO WWW. FIRE. NSW. GOV. AU

THE drought is not only cre­at­ing a fire risk in the bush, it is leav­ing re­gional ar­eas un­able to fight blazes be­cause they can’t find re­tained fire­fight­ers.

While Syd­ney fire sta­tions have long wait­ing lists for full­time fireys, re­tained or “on­call” fire­fight­ers in coun­try ar­eas are hard to find.

They must be will­ing to drop ev­ery­thing at their day job to deal with an emer­gency.

But with drought con­di­tions putting the hand­brake on em­ploy­ment, many have been forced to travel for work, rul­ing them out for ser­vice in town.

Ear­lier this month fire­fight­ers from Quirindi, Tam­worth and sur­round­ing ar­eas headed to nearby Barraba on a re­cruit­ment drive.

The town has a pop­u­la­tion of about 1400 and needs four peo­ple to op­er­ate a fire truck in an emer­gency. In re­cent times fireys from other ar­eas have had to come into town to help.

New Eng­land and North­West Re­gion com­man­der Su­per­in­ten­dent Tom Cooper said they are af­ter peo­ple who are in town dur­ing the day.

“Mums and dads who drop the kids at school and then are home in the mid­dle of the day are a big tar­get for us,” Supt Cooper said. “But our next re­cruit could be the lo­cal sand­wich shop owner who can duck out, a ho­tel em­ployee, or some­one at the lo­cal ser­vice sta­tion or gro­cery store.

“Un­for­tu­nately, with the drought mak­ing em­ploy­ment con­di­tions tough, some peo­ple be­lieve that they may jeop­ar­dise their job by need­ing to at­tend an emer­gency.” Dur­ing the Oc­to­ber 6 re­cruit­ment drive at Barraba fire­fight­ers were able to get the ac­tive in­ter­est of at least two peo­ple.

How­ever, they be­lieve once towns­folk get the mes­sage that FRNSW needs peo­ple, more will come on board.

Re­tained fire­fight­ers get about $200 per week to be on call and can book in times when they are un­avail­able to “take the wife out for din­ner or watch the kids play sport”, Supt Cooper said.

“You don’t need to be su­per­man or superwoman to be a re­tained fire­fighter — we want peo­ple who are re­li­able and keen to help oth­ers, es­pe­cially lo­cal res­i­dents who are avail­able to re­spond to emer­gen­cies dur­ing the day.

“They do much more than fight fires. Re­tained fire­fight­ers are trained in ad­vanced first aid and heavy ve­hi­cle driv­ing, they re­spond to road ac­ci­dents and hazardous ma­te­rial spills, and ed­u­cate the com­mu­nity on fire safety and preven­tion.”

Other du­ties can in­clude mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents.

Re­cruit­ing lo­cals in Barraba.

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