The United Firefighters Union of WA has slammed the State Government for exploiting volunteers to prop up “disgraceful” under-funding of emergency services.
Union secretary Kevin Jolly said the introduction of dual brigade status to Yallingup Coastal, Wallcliffe, Cowaramup and Witchcliffe volunteer bushfire brigades would increase work pressures and trauma of crews dealing with horrific road crashes and serious structural fires.
“No one’s actually really thought about what they’re doing to the volunteers. It’s abuse. And the community depend on their services,” he said.
Mr Jolly said while training in regional areas including the Capes during the past 10 years he had often sat with traumatised volunteers who he felt were not given adequate support or counselling.
“A lot of them are suffering big time and they take that home to their families. And then they’re expected to get up in the morning and go to work,” he said.
Mr Jolly said the Government must commit to more career firefighting resources in the Capes.
The State was poorly resourced and Busselton should have been a brigade 10 years ago, he said.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Capes district manager Danny Mosconi said dual registered brigades had better capacity to deal with incidents.
“Brigades which have become dual registered will not be attending more incidents than before and because they have more skills they will be safer,” he said.
Mr Mosconi said DFES were putting on two additional area officers in Margaret River to support volunteers.
Volunteers had access to the DFES welfare team, free counselling and peer support, he said.
Transport Minister Troy Buswell said the new fire districts of Yallingup, Cowaramup, Witchcliffe and Gnarabup/Prevelly were developed in consultation with volunteers.
“DFES is providing new and enhanced facilities, equipment and training to these brigades to enhance overall response capacity in the Capes Area, including additional appliances and upgraded facilities at Yallingup Coastal, Cowaramup, Witchcliffe, Dunsborough and Wallcliffe Brigades,” he said.
“Additional appliances will also be allocated to Busselton and Margaret River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service in 2013.”
Mr Buswell said feedback from volunteers indicated the agency and area would benefit more through this approach than through provision of a single location career service.
“DFES is still exploring the option of providing a dedicated career service in the Busselton area in the future,” he said.