LINE OF DUTY: Naracoorte CFS Brigade captain Shane Smith (front) with firefighters Andy Bartosek, Graham Dickson, Malcolm Johnston and Grant Sambell. Brigades in the South East, particularly around Wattle Range and Mount Gambier, have received plenty of enquiries from potential firefighters.IN the shadow of the Sampson Flat fires, Country Fire Service offices have seen prospective volunteer numbers surge, so much so that many have not found placements.
CFS assistant chief officer Mick Ayre said the rush of volunteers was a familiar trend.
“Pretty much after a fire of some significance we tend to see this,” he said.
“It prompts people who had been considering (volunteering).”
Mr Ayre said the service was always in need of volunteers but in this case, most of them had enlisted to work in the metropolitan areas where numbers were so high some brigades had waiting lists in place.
“The biggest need happens to be in rural towns where the population is declining,” he said.
“In these areas our brigade numbers are suffering; that’s where we really want those numbers.”
Mr Ayre said the expense of training and equipping volunteers could be in excess of $1000 a person. As a result, a risk assessment was undertaken to work out a minimum and maximum number required at each station.
“We try to keep as close to the maximum,” he said.
“Often, where these people want to volunteer, there are already a significant number on the waiting list.”
He said it was also important to put people through a training system, including attending a number of smaller incidences before heading out to a significant event such as the Sampson Flat fires.
Mr Ayre said retention with regional brigades remained a problem as people moved away for study or work opportunities.
“We have a lot of 40-year veterans but we also get a lot of people who leave after 12 months to 18 months,” he said.
“We lose a lot of younger ones, the ones we need to keep for succession.”
Some regional areas had seen a spike in volunteer numbers, including Region Five in the South East lifting after a major fire at the start of the year.
Region Four, which covers the Flinders, Mid North and Pastoral regions, had a similar boost in the past 12 months after the Bangor fires in January and February last year.
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