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2 June, 2022

Auxiliary firefighters reach low levels

AUXILIARY firefighter numbers have reached critical levels on the Tablelands with some stations not having enough auxiliaries to fill a truck, leaving towns vulnerable and unprotected right before the region heads into the fire season.

By Rhys Thomas

JOIN US: Western command area commander Brad Flemming and Mareeba Station firefighters Darryl Chaplain, Jamie Elari, Mitchell Timmins and Phil Catling are encouraging Tablelanders to sign up as auxiliary firefighters.

While the lack of auxiliaries is a statewide issue, local stations such as Dimbulah, Millaa Millaa, Ravenshoe and even Cooktown are suffering from severely depleted auxiliary numbers. 

Cooktown’s closest back up station is Mareeba, an estimated three-hour wait time for backup to arrive for fires in urban areas. 

While there are rural fire brigades scattered around the region, they are not equipped with the training necessary to tackle urban fires. 

Area commander of the western command Brad Fleming said it is paramount these areas have auxiliaries as they served as the first line of defence and quickest response to fires and emergencies. 

“We do not even have enough people to man one truck in some areas,” he said. “In small towns it is absolutely paramount that we have auxiliary firefighters, they are the response for those towns. 

“In places like Millaa Millaa and Ravenshoe where there is a very large distance between the next station, it is vitally important to have auxiliaries because the next responding vehicle could be half an hour away. 

“Their ability to look after their own town for that first initial response is crucial.” 

Before signing the paperwork and committing to becoming an auxiliary, hopeful applicants have the chance to meet the crews through drill nights and get a feel for firefighting before fully investing in the job. 

“They can get a feel for it for a couple of weeks and see if it is actually for them,” Mr Flemming said. “All parties can get a feel for each other, that is the safest way that anyone can do this sort of stuff.” 

As the region heads into the fire season, full-time firefighters will be stretched thin as they partake in hazard reduction burns and attending any possible bushfires that erupt during the season. 

Having auxiliary firefighters available to fill their vacant spots where needed is vital to ensure the safety of communities on the Tablelands. 

To become an auxiliary firefighter, at the minimum, applicants must have a manual C class license, be 18 years of age or older, an Australian or New Zealand citizen or have permanent residency and have employers written consent. 

There is a potential career pathway beyond an auxiliary firefighter into becoming a full-time firefighter for those who enjoy the job. 

Contact the Western Command area office on 4089 6802 to get more information about signing up as an auxiliary and which station you can be assigned to.

In this weeks printed edition, the Phone number provided was incorrect. Please use the number above to Contact the Western Command Area Office.

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