Volunteers put service in hot seat

WEEKEND meetings between Queensland Fire and Rescue bosses and the rural firies union are set to ignite major protests across the state, including from the Fraser Coast.

“Fourteen of us met on Saturday with QF and R executives and the time has come to say simply that we've had enough,” Queensland Rural Fire Brigade Association CEO Dick Irwin said.

“We spent all day talking with QF and R and we have set time frames for their actions to fix the situation across the state – some of it urgently,” said Mr Irwin, who grew up in Maryborough.

In recent weeks Fraser Coast rural fire volunteers have approached the Chronicle to discuss their concerns, which they say have increased over the years. The volunteers are part of 218 brigades and 6128 volunteers who fight rural fires between Gympie and north of Bundaberg.

“We look after 93 per cent of Queensland's fires,” Mr Irwin said. “Some days I feel like howling at the lack of support and consultation and the sheer frustration of getting our job done. We are unpaid professionals who are largely treated like second class citizens.”

Concerns mentioned to the Chronicle by Mr Irwin and Max Rogers, the association's president, include:

A new operations manual that was prepared with almost no consultation and does not totally protect volunteers.

Equipment that is new yet deficient and therefore incapable of doing the job professionally.

High level training that is not accredited.

Lack of uniforms and incomplete uniforms.

Volunteers forced to pay for fuel and maintenance of vehicles and other equipment.

A mish-mash of fire levies across the state.

Volunteers needing to apply for grants for building work.

A surfeit of forms to fill in – privacy legislation that has “gone overboard”.

Paul Adcot, director of regional operations for Fire and Rescue, said the rural firies had presented issues at the weekend meeting that they had not canvassed with F and R earlier.

“Some points they made have been ongoing.

“The claim we are putting too much expectation on volunteers and they are walking is wrong. We're just not seeing that.

“This is not to say we don't believe there are some issues involved but there's a bit of grandstanding going on there.

“Our job is to support volunteering and we take that very seriously.

“We are not going to take any action which disadvantages volunteering. We're there to support them, not to make their job harder.”

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