NSW facing potential firefighter shortage over Covid jab mandate

A group of around 120 firefighters have been stood down across NSW for saying no to the Covid-19 jab, but one affected firefighter expects that number to grow, potentially creating a critical shortage in qualified firefighters ready to respond to emergencies.

The 35-year veteran, who asked not to be named through fear of retribution, is one of the experienced firefighters across the state who have been suspended without pay since 17 December for refusing the jab after Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) made it mandatory for all staff.

The firefighter said many of his colleagues, even those that have taken the shot, remain confused by the constantly changing directives and that the organisation has lost key skills and experience practically overnight by standing down so many firefighters.

Firefighters with their fire truck in action on a residential in Sydney.
Around 120 NSW firefighters have been stood down for saying no to the Covid-19 jab after Fire and Rescue NSW made it mandatory. Source: Getty Images.

“In total around 1,600 years of experience has been lost (from the suspensions), but that number will grow,” the firefighter said.

“The predominant word for morale in the organisation right now is confusion.

“Firefighters were told to get the two jabs to do the right thing by your buddies and the community you serve, and now already the fire service is talking about boosters.

“Most don’t want the boosters so it’s (the number refusing the jab) going to grow rapidly.”

The firefighter, who is also a director of the Australia Firefighters Alliance formed to support firefighters who have been stood down for refusing the inoculation across Australia, is a decorated station officer who has been recognised for bravery and professionalism.

Fire and Rescue NSW truck on Sydney Harbour Bridge.
NSW firefighters stood down for refusing the Covid-19 injection are expected to be joined by many more who aren't happy with the prospect of getting booster shots. Source: Getty Images.

He said many who took the jab did not agree with the mandate and those who had refused were concerned with the side-effects, many of which are starting to now become apparent.

“99.9 percent of us are under the age of 60, are fit and healthy with no comorbidities, so we don’t perceive the need to be injected for a disease that has a 99.97 percent survival rate.

“I’m not aware of any incidents at all where firefighters have passed on Covid to members of the community and not aware of any firefighters hospitalised from Covid.

“There’s three firefighters that I know of, young fit blokes, that have had myocarditis, have been hospitalised or had adverse reactions from the jab.

“I’m near retirement so if I end up out of a job it’s of little consequence to, but for the other firefighters with families and mortgages – that’s why we started the Australian Firefighters Alliance to go into bat for these people and show them support.”

The Australia Department of Health website reminds people that the "benefits of the vaccination outweigh the risk of Covid-19" and the very low risk of adverse cardiac symptoms such as myocarditis or pericarditis.

The firefighter said that the shortage caused by the suspension of staff was being covered by overtime from remaining firefighters.

Yahoo News Australia approached FRNSW for comment but it refused to answer questions on how the suspensions had affected its response capability and preparedness across NSW, the number of staff injured by the jab and if any firefighters had transmitted or contracted Covid whilst on duty or had been hospitalised as a result to justify the strict mandate.

Picture of fire station.
NSW has lost around 1,600 years of experience in its firefighting capability after 120 firefighters were suspended for not complying with the FRNSW jab mandate. Source: Getty Images.

A FRNSW spokesperson said: “Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) follows the advice of the NSW and Federal governments in reducing the transmission of Covid-19.

"In addition to the vaccination mandate, protective health measures are also in place at FRNSW facilities to ensure our emergency response capability is not compromised.

"The community can rest assured FRNSW has implemented all practicable measures to minimise the transmission of Covid-19 to staff and the public.”

The suspended firefighters have been told they have two months to get the Covid-19 shot or face termination.

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