Local volunteers join their brigades to protect their local community.
I have been concerned for several years since the growth of private forestry plantations in the area and the downsizing of Forestry Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife Service’s firefighting capacity in the area and indeed the state.
We kept asking who was going to provide fire protection of these areas during a dry season of intense fire behaviour, we were all assured plans were in place to manage such incidents, but basically it was all going to rest with the volunteers.
This fire season echoed all our concerns, and the volunteers were pushed to the limit to not only protect their communities but then spend countless days working on this public land, mopping up the fire without pay, many taking leave from their employers to provide their services.
Many volunteers expressed to me their concerns at being used as a volunteer resource on land which should be be protected by the relevant owners of the land (the government) and if they are required to work on this land they should also be paid the same as the contractors and permanent staff whom they worked beside during this past fire season.
I believe unless this issue is seriously addressed and rectified in the near future, the threat of losing many of our volunteers from the brigades is real.
None of these volunteers have a problem protecting their community, but it is unrealistic to expect them to replace a firefighting force which has been removed from the state due to budgetary mismanagement, and the downsizing of the forest industry, and at the same time locking up more public land to be fire hazards.
Leo Berechree, outgoing TFS Circular Head group officer