Firefighters rely on snags

Headshot of Geoff Vivian
Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
Volunteer firefighters say it costs $5,000 to service a fire truck and $1500 to equip and train a new volunteer firefighter
Camera IconVolunteer firefighters say it costs $5,000 to service a fire truck and $1500 to equip and train a new volunteer firefighter Credit: Geoff Vivian The Geraldton Guardian

Geraldton’s top firefighter says local fire brigades still rely heavily on sausage sizzles and other fundraising activities to pay for basic equipment and to maintain it.

The City of Greater Geraldton has 12 local bushfire brigades, and fire control officer Trevor Morrison said the WA Government provided only $128,000 to run them.

“Just to service one of our major trucks costs about $5000 at a time and most have got at least one,” he said.

Mr Morrison, a longstanding volunteer firefighter, said it also cost $1500 to outfit a new volunteer with boots, overalls, helmet, gloves and basic training.

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“It all adds up and they have a limited life span,” he said.

Mr Morrison said the brigades were pushing for more operational funding from the WA Government’s Emergency Services Levy which local councils were forced to collect from ratepayers and then pay to the State.

He said volunteers were only getting two per cent of the 2017-18 $400 million ESL to run their brigades.

Mr Morrison said as a result, volunteer firefighters depended on donations and general fundraising, including contracts with landowners to burn off their land.

His comments came after Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan announced DFES’ new Rural Fire Division. With this came a raft of new Government spending initiatives.

Included in these are an $18 million Bushfire Centre of Excellence, $80 million to enhance rural bushfire capacity, a $34.6 million increase in bushfire mitigation funding, and a $15 million extension of the Bushfire Risk Management Plans program.

These will be funded by an increase in the ESL on all properties that took effect on July 1.

In Western Australia, the levy applies to all properties as part of annual local government rate charges.

In an April statement, Mr Logan said the annual levy on metropolitan properties would rise by $28 and regional landowners would pay between $8 and $17 more.

Mr Morrison said there was no corresponding increase in local bushfire brigades’ funding, which remained at 2017-18 levels.

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