The following news article appeared in the Guardian on Thursday the 13th of December 2018. This article supports the views as felt by many but not all volunteers, that the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) is continuing to build its empire and is heading down the same path as Victoria.
The VFFA is concerned that the good will of volunteers is being abused as the RFS takes on a plethora of new disciplines and is developing into a stand-alone duplication of Fire and Rescue NSW in many areas. The VFFA is also concerned that the State Mitigation Service staff are becoming the paid firefighters of the RFS into the future.
Are modern firefighting agencies inciting fear as a method of risk management rather than applying appropriate risk control measures?
Fear is a powerful tool, it sells newspapers, keeps the television ratings alive, gives our radio stations some great material to talk about and it helps to drive campaigns to increase public spending on reactive and expensive firefighting strategies that we simply cannot afford.
Image if we could return to a situation where our local firefighters looked after their own patch without the red tape associated with hazard reduction. Image how nice it would be if our land management practices were returned to a commonsense and balanced approach that our Indigenous Australians, farmers and graziers have used in the past.
Instead of cooking the guts out of the country, we could see improved forest health and reduced risk to our native animals and the bush that we love so much.
Instead, we see another story that warns us of a bleak bushfire outlook. There is no mention of the massive fuel loads that are the root cause of this problem.
The media has become interested in the need for major reform after the release of the NSW Upper House report, entitled Emergency Services Agencies NSW.
The audio file (below) was captured on Wednesday 25th July, by a VFFA supporter as he listened to an interview with the VFFA President, Mick Holton by Graeme Gilbert of the 2SM Super Radio Network.
Mr Gilbert gave our association approximately twenty eight minutes of air time.
The 2SM Super Radio Network broadcasts across Sydney, many rural and regional areas of NSW.
Comments and feedback are most welcome.
The audio file is provided is this post.
Are we Forgetting Something?
There is no disputing that aviation plays a vital role in our firefighting capability, but is the state government spending too much time and taxpayers money developing RFS capability whilst they are neglecting the simple principles of mitigation, early detection and suppression using their vast network of volunteer firefighters on the ground.
When it comes to fire suppression, the VFFA is not convinced that large fixed wing aircraft are the answer. We do support using smaller fixed wing aircraft and helicopters for transportation of remote area fire teams (RAFT) and to support ground crews with aerial suppression activities.
With reference to fixed wing aircraft, it should be noted that a fire retardant drop using a DC10 (Very Large Air Tanker – VLAT) costs us $45,000 per drop. Operation of helicopters for firefighting activities is significantly cheaper.
Whilst we acknowledge that this helicopter aquisition has the potential to enhance the states remote area response reach and capability, but we must not neglect the resources that we already have.
It has also been suggested that the money could have been invested into fire towers and early detection systems that have the potential to alert firefighters of a fire before it becomes too large.
The VFFA is concerned that the voices of all persons (including our volunteer firefighters) is being muffled at the hands of political influence and manipulation.
How many government inquiries does it take to bring about change?
The issues surrounding turf wars have been around for a long time but those with empires to build don’t wish to discuss options.
A Trigger Point for Change – The NSW Government have never been able to settle upon a trigger point that is used to activate a change in firefighter engagement.
The NSW RFS Operational Brief seems contradictory and is included in this post.
Did you know that the bullying and harassment issue has been around for a long time in the NSW RFS and it is not limited to RFS Volunteers?
Where does this bullying and harassment come from and where will it end?
It looks very suspicious when we see the NSW State Government failing to respond to the views of regional and rural communities. One example is the decentralisation of the RFS Head Office.
Are they being influenced by the NSW RFS?
Are they being bullied in some way?
The Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) will not disclose how much their 20th Anniversary celebrations cost and where the money came from.
Did attendees make a contribution?
Did Panthers do the RFSA a special deal?
Were special guests looked after in the, now famous RFSA “Gala” style?
Were there any special guests flown in and at what cost?
Was it all paid for using RFSA funds that were generated from generous public donations and raffle ticket sales?
How many new style firefighting helmets, radios or other much sought after items could this event (and others like it) have funded?
Perhaps those who have made donations and purchased raffle tickets will think twice before doing so again unless the RFSA provides a great deal more transparency.
Rural communities are not impressed. The VFFA campaign to put the RURAL back into the Rural Fire Service will continue…. the next state election will be interesting.
There has been some discussion (even in NSW) about the implications of setting up an independent fire service.
When you look back in time, at the way that the NSW RFS began, it seems to have gone full circle:
1. Neighbours pooling resources and working together to protect themselves and each other from the threat of fire.
2. A larger group of people working together as above but forming a brigade that is supported by local government.
3. A state based organisation working with local governments to support local brigades.
4. The state based organisation builds an empire that looses focus upon the reason they are their in the first place.
5. The state based organisation grows bigger with bureaucracy and over complication clouding their ability to properly serve those local brigades.
6. Local brigades get frustrated.
7. Experienced people often leave.
8. Neighbours consider pooling resources and working together to protect themselves and each other from the threat of fire.
The Wambelong fire of January 2013, burnt out the Warrumbungle National Park, destroyed scores of surrounding properties and shattered the lives of many people in the Coonabarabran community.
The subsequent Coronial Inquest and Parliamentary Inquiry made 52 recommendations.
It has taken well over three years for the government to respond to the recommendations, this article looks at some of the local responses from the Coonabarabran community.
Feel free to add your comments.
Bushfire Bombers – RFS Style is an article that first appeared on the SOS News web site. It was published in 2007 and is very relevant today.
This unbelievable story could be about the rise of the RFS Empire, the corruption that exists in the bushfire industry, bullying and harassment at numerous levels, the disturbing fact that fighting bushfires has become BIG BUSINESS and then there is the aviation context.
This disturbing story helps to explain how the RFS has developed into the “out of control” bureaucracy that has lost touch with its grass roots. Comments are most welcome.