Monday, 21 September 2020
Firies need rain and answers to combat fire season

First officer for the Boonah rural fire brigade Trevor Turner says this fire season will be worse than the last. 

“If we could get 20 mm tomorrow then it will help, but we can’t, we can’t get any rain,” he said. 

“Five months now and we’ve only had 30 odd mil of rain. 

“This fire season will be the worst I’ve seen in the council area.” 

He says last season saw the fires in the parks although the brigade struggled to keep them there. 

“It didn’t come out of parks very far other than at Moogerah, there it came out to Wild Cattle Creek which is about 10 kilometres out from the mountain range, we nearly lost it,” he said. 

“We were very lucky not to lose homes, very lucky.” 

On September 8, yellow ribbon day saw Queenslander’s bare a yellow ribbon to show their support for the hard-working Rural Fire Service volunteers. 

The same day saw Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Craig Crawford announce an ‘increase’ to the Rural Fire Service budget.

A media release was issued that outlined a “funding boost of $47.1 million” to assist RFS volunteers. 

The same release was sent out again almost five hours later, this time with the wording - “funding boost to $47.1 million”. 

The error was not highlighted in the release and there is yet to be a breakdown of the funding figure and did not release how much had been spent on the brigades in 2019-20. 

Mr Crawford said the unwavering dedication of RFS volunteers is paramount to keeping our communities safe. 

“Today I’m proudly announcing $47.1 million to support the ongoing work of our RFS,” he said. 

“The 2019 bushfire season was unlike anything we’ve seen before, but thanks to our volunteer firies, we made it through even more resilient than before,” Mr Crawford said. 

“The devastating fires across the state saw our RFS volunteers work tirelessly to protect Queenslanders.” 

Turner says that the rural firies “don’t see a cent” of these budgets. 

He said that as the brigade is using council water, there’s issues with usage and potential for things to go wrong. 

“I have got a situation where we’re at level two water restrictions with the council,” he said. 

“We rely on council water - we can take the water for emergencies like firefighting, but we can’t use that water for training exercises. 

“If you’re relying on town water and the power goes out, the station transformer goes down, you’ve got no power and you’ve got no water.”  

Turner says that the brigade has a bore that was dug years ago that is waiting for a grant to be able to put a bore pump down the hole. 

“It’s only 68 feet but there’s about 5 or 6 thousand gallons of water, beautiful crystal-clear water,” he said. 

“And I am still waiting for grants to be able to equip it.”

The LNP accused the Palaszczuk Labor Government of using ‘smoke and mirrors’ to hide cuts to Queensland’s rural fire brigades.

In 2018/19 total funding for rural fire brigades was $53.5m - $6.4m more than the figure announced. 

LNP Shadow Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Lachlan Millar said Queensland’s rural firies deserved straight answers from Labor.

“No-one is buying Labor’s spin on fire funding,” Mr Millar said.

“The Rural Fire Brigade Association has already said there’s a good chance that this funding ‘increase’ is not real.

“Just a year ago these men and women were on the frontline of a horrific bushfire season, giving their all to protect their communities.

“These cuts mean less money for training, less money for fire trucks and less money for equipment. No wonder volunteers are walking away from our rural brigades.”