Rural firies vow to fight cuts

RURAL firefighters have officially vowed to fight a decision to cut 52% of paid Rural Fire Service staff as the public sector union warns the cuts would destroy volunteer fire fighting support west of The Great Divide.

The Rural Fire Brigades Association of Queensland - which comprises more than 1400 volunteer brigades and more than 34,000 volunteers - resolved to "protect the safety of our volunteer fire-fighters and communities through the retention of current staff and area offices" during a meeting in Rockhampton at the weekend.

The association last week learned the State Government was planning to cut 55 positions and feared this move would place communities and firefighters in danger as the service goes into "what is acknowledged as the worst bushfire season in 50 years".

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

The next day Community Safety Minister Jack Dempsey, after fierce public outrage, backtracked, saying the structure of cuts and closures was not final.

The RFBAQ, in a statement released on Monday, said any State-Government proposed cuts to staffing, including closing area offices, would "directly and negatively impact on community safety across the 93% of the state that volunteer fire brigades protect".

"What the RFBAQ cannot agree with is the reduction of 52% to the Rural Fire Service while the rest of the Department of Community Safety undergo a reduction of 3%," a statement said.

Together Secretary Alex Scott said he was receiving reports all staff had been declared redundant at Barcaldine, Charters Towers, Emerald, Innisfail, Maryborough and Roma.

He said he also had reports all coastal volunteer fire fighting support offices had their staffing reduced, some by 50%.

"Despite the Premier's statement that these cuts are overstated we have reports the scale of these cuts is such that there is no support left for rural fire volunteers across vast tracts of our state west of the Great Dividing Range," he said.

"Our members support volunteer brigades through hands-on training, ensuring equipment is up-to-date and maintained and standing alongside rural fire volunteers on the fire line.

"These cuts mean volunteer fire fighters west of the Great Divide will have the support they rely on to fight fires and return home safely slashed - increasing the risk for regional communities."


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