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Firies 'betrayed' by cuts: RFBAQ

RURAL firefighters fear cutting 55 positions will place communities and firefighters in danger as the service goes into "what is acknowledged as the worst bushfire season in 50 years".

They are calling for the Queensland Government to immediately revoke plans to shut down offices in Maryborough, Toowoomba, Roma, Emerald, Brisbane and northern Queensland.

The Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland, which represents the volunteers, said members felt betrayed because not "one cent of these savings" would translate into extra equipment or financial support for "the most poorly funded Rural Fire Service in the country".

RFBAQ chief Justin Choveaux said closing the Barcaldine-Emerald office would mean the closest became Rockhampton or Townsville which was a long way for Longreach people.

He said closing the Roma and Toowoomba regional offices meant there was no office for rural fire brigades from Toowoomba to the Northern Territory and South Australian borders.

Mr Choveaux said the government had scrapped the Maryborough regional office which co-ordinated fire responses from just north of Bundaberg to Beerwah on the Sunshine Coast and out to Kingaroy in the west.

He said the association's goal was the "every volunteer who goes out comes back" but reduced training and support services would put that at risk.

Mr Choveaux questioned who would now support volunteer firefighters, train them, order uniforms and equipment, complete paperwork, recruit volunteers and work with council for funding.

He said this came to the organisation as "a complete shock", was "unacceptable" and must be "repealed" as soon as possible.

"Shutting an office is huge. Let's take Maryborough which has lost an area office and a regional office," he said.

"Say there's a fire at Tinana or Poona. The local rural fire brigade heads out but it gets larger and more brigades get pulled in.

"That's when uniformed officers drive down and set up incident control because you have national parks, ambulance, SES and other units all coming together.

"If you don't have that area office or that staff there that's not going to happen.

"Area staff live locally and they know the fire risks for each area and these cuts mean we lose that local knowledge."

Mr Choveaux said heightened community expectations meant rural fire brigades now engaged in community education, hazard reduction and respond to cyclone, floods and car crashes.

But he said these cuts would mean volunteers could not be trained at a level to reflect the roles they were fulfilling.

"Those brigades won't be able to effectively support their communities in their time of need," he said.

Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey said these cuts were about creating a more "efficient, streamlined process" in fighting fires.

He said none of the redundancies would take place during the Queensland bushfire season which would end in March last year.

"Fires don't wait for a command to come back from a higher level," he said.

"It's about empowering those people in the communities to take action in a timely manner and that's what we're going help facilitate."

Figures show 45 out of 79 uniformed positions will be made redundant.

A further 10 out of 37 non-uniformed officers will also be cut.

Topics:  job cuts rural fire brigades association of queensland rural firefighters volunteers



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