Blazing need for fireys
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.