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RFSA to focus on the challenges for rural fire fighters in the Far West.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Representatives of the NSW Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) recently visited numerous Rural Fire Brigade stations across the Far West and Mid-Lachlan Valley fire districts to meet and speak personally with NSW RFS volunteers about the challenges they face. 



“Our Members in these fire districts face different challenges to their eastern seaboard colleagues,” said RFSA President, Ken Middleton. “By visiting the area and engaging directly with our Members we have discovered how the RFSA can best support and assist volunteers with the important work they do on behalf of the community.”



Mr. Middleton said that whilst the NSW Government and local councils provide funding for fire fighting vehicles and equipment, Brigades often needed to fundraise if they wished to purchase requirements such as fridges, air conditioning, station ventilation and tables and chairs.



Fundraising to improve amenities for Brigades that are remote from townships with populations large enough to support directly or donate, can be extremely difficult. That’s why the fundraising conducted by the RFSA across the state of NSW that provides assistance to improve the amenities for rural fire fighters is vital. It enables funds that are raised in more densely populated areas to be used to support and provide for volunteers in areas where there are not as many possible supporters.



“It’s often promoted for people to donate directly to their local Brigade, which is of benefit for Brigades close to the city or large townships.” Mr. Middleton explained.



“But what of Brigades where the entire Brigade is made up of one farming family?  Or its members are the majority of a remote rural town?  The only people putting their hand in their pocket, in these instances, are the Brigade members themselves! The RFSA is committed to assisting these Brigades and their members.”



Numerous Rural Fire Brigades were visited including Derriwong, Baratta, Triangle, South Vermont, North Vermont Hill, Mineral Hill, Yambora, Albert, Canbelege, Bourke HQ, Ford's Bridge, Wampralea, Coord Bridge, Yantabulla and Enngonnia.



One of the most pressing concerns raised by the volunteers is recruitment of members with shrinking and aging populations seeing a greater workload placed on current members.



“One volunteer we spoke with at Enngonia Brigade was a retired mechanic, in his senior years and was the only one with the know-how to maintain and fix the trucks,” said Mr. Middleton.



Other areas identified for attention included mental health, volunteer protection from prosecution, the rear steps of the CAT 1 tanker, insulation in Brigade sheds and the operational benefits of an airstrip in Yookowth.



“Our visit to these districts has identified a number of concerns and the RFSA will be working with the local NSW RFS District Mangers and Brigades to explore resolutions.



We are also looking at projects to make the Brigades more than just a shed.  The NSW RFSA grant scheme will be of benefit with this by assisting with things like fridges and roof ventilation.



“Ideally, improved amenities in sheds will assist with recruitment and membership as the Brigade becomes more accessible and better equipped. And better equipped Brigade sheds can contribute to a stronger community.” Mr Middleton said.



RFSA representatives speak with members at Bourke HQ Rural Fire Brigade.


Visiting Enngonia Rural Fire Brigade


Listening to concerns at Baratta Rural Fire Brigade.


Wampralea Rural Fire Brigade, approx 180km west of Bourke.