Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

CRISIS IN FIRIES Firefighter Crisis Threat; Volunteers Now a Thing of the Past

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

CRISIS IN FIRIES Firefighter Crisis Threat; Volunteers Now a Thing of the Past

Article excerpt

Byline: Arthur Gorrie

AS the Gympie region's bushfire season worsens, a crisis in volunteering has meant significant and potentially disastrous recruiting problems for rural fire brigades across Queensland.

Cr Larry Friske told this week's regional council meeting that the problem threatened to seriously affect public safety.

Shortages of available volunteers has had a noticeable effect on rural fire brigades and other vital volunteer-based organisations, including the State Emergency Service.

Cr Friske said the problem was highlighted by the decision of long-serving Veteran Rural Fire Brigade first officer Merv Gibson to stand aside from the position and take up a more supporting role as third officer.

He said new young volunteers were no longer coming through and the average age of a Queensland rural brigade first officer had soared in the past 30 years.

The result was that volunteer services were suffering an age crisis which could see them suffering serious problems.

Mr Gibson, currently on duty fighting fires as part of a strike force in the Wondai area, is a veteran firefighter in more ways than one, as Cr Friske pointed out.

aHe's attended something like 1200 fires and has a significant amount of silverware to hang on his chest,a Cr Friske said.

aWhen he took over 30 years ago, the average age was 47 for a first officer.

aToday it's 70 years,a he said.

aI suggest, from looking at the age of fire brigade members, that there has to be a significant change in the way our rural fire brigades are structured or we will seriously not have rural fire brigades.

aAs third officer he will be mentoring the first and second officers.a

Mayor Ron Dyne expressed his strong agreement.

aYou're dead right in relation to fire brigades,a he said.

aI know that in the brigade I belong to it is an aging brigade and unfortunately people are not being replaced. …

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