Volunteer firefighters sent to front lines with old trucks, faulty masks and inadequate training

Volunteer firefighters were sent to tackle raging blazes with outdated trucks, faulty masks, poor communication equipment and inadequate training.

Firefighters across Australia risked their lives for months with 30-year-old trucks that lacked the latest protective materials and had little protection from falling trees.

Volunteers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia were also sent to life-threatening front lines with inadequate equipment.

Volunteer firefighters were sent to tackle raging blazes with outdated trucks, faulty masks, poor communication equipment and inadequate training. Pictured: Rural Fire Service firefighters conduct property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet

Volunteer firefighters were sent to tackle raging blazes with outdated trucks, faulty masks, poor communication equipment and inadequate training. Pictured: Rural Fire Service firefighters conduct property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet

Volunteer firefighters were sent to tackle raging blazes with outdated trucks, faulty masks, poor communication equipment and inadequate training. Pictured: Rural Fire Service firefighters conduct property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet

Firefighters across Australia risked their lives for months with 30-year-old trucks that lacked the latest protective materials and had little protection from falling trees

Firefighters across Australia risked their lives for months with 30-year-old trucks that lacked the latest protective materials and had little protection from falling trees

Firefighters across Australia risked their lives for months with 30-year-old trucks that lacked the latest protective materials and had little protection from falling trees

As they battled out-of-control fires from September to February, volunteers in rural areas had a lack of resources despite being hit the hardest, according to The Weekend Australian.

A funding plea from the NSW Rural Fire Service to upgrade worn and outdated trucks has been untouched by the NSW government for months, the newspaper reported.

But now that fires are finally under control for the first time since September, attention is on equipment that needs updating.

Volunteer organisations found themselves with little-to-no support and with a lack of resources that were often already being used by paid firefighting services.

Crews in New South Wales found themselves with trucks that were not equipped to withstand extreme conditions.

Some trucks did not have emergency watering systems to keep tyres from melting in the heat and batteries from failing.

Other trucks did not have heat resistant material both for the truck and the firefighters.

Joe Arena, the treasurer of Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade turned to crowd funding in December to help buy essential fire fighting masks

Joe Arena, the treasurer of Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade turned to crowd funding in December to help buy essential fire fighting masks

Joe Arena, the treasurer of Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade turned to crowd funding in December to help buy essential fire fighting masks 

Volunteers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia were sent to life-threatening front lines with inadequate equipment. Pictured: Volunteer firefighters in Menai

Volunteers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia were sent to life-threatening front lines with inadequate equipment. Pictured: Volunteer firefighters in Menai

Volunteers from New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia were sent to life-threatening front lines with inadequate equipment. Pictured: Volunteer firefighters in Menai

A business case submitted to NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott detailed the deficiencies found in the 3,820 trucks in the RFS.

Of those trucks many were found to be of poor quality, with some almost 30 years old and had an absence of roll bars.

The NSW RFS also raised concerns over the efficacy of P2 masks and a severe shortfall in the number of volunteers.

Brian McDonough, president of the NSW Rural Fire Service ­Association, said with the current funding the old trucks cannot be replaced quickly enough.

‘Some of the trucks are over 25 years old and therefore the protection and technology is not the same as the trucks that are less than four or five years old,’ he said. 

As they battled out-of-control fires from September to February, volunteers in rural areas had a lack of resources despite being hit the hardest. Pictured: An RFS volunteer in Sussex Inlet in Decmeber

As they battled out-of-control fires from September to February, volunteers in rural areas had a lack of resources despite being hit the hardest. Pictured: An RFS volunteer in Sussex Inlet in Decmeber

As they battled out-of-control fires from September to February, volunteers in rural areas had a lack of resources despite being hit the hardest. Pictured: An RFS volunteer in Sussex Inlet in Decmeber

The NSW RFS also raised concerns over the efficacy of P2 masks and a severe shortfall in the number of volunteers

The NSW RFS also raised concerns over the efficacy of P2 masks and a severe shortfall in the number of volunteers

The NSW RFS also raised concerns over the efficacy of P2 masks and a severe shortfall in the number of volunteers

Victorian firefighters raised similar concerns with their fleet, which is believed to be the oldest in the country.

Many trucks are believed to be more than 30 years old and volunteer numbers are the lowest in history with only 34,380 operational volunteers.

The Victorian volunteer firefighting training program has also been deemed inadequate. 

In South Australia not all trucks have life-saving fire curtains and sprinkler systems to cool down windows in the trucks.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters prepare for property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31

Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters prepare for property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31

Rural Fire Service (RFS) firefighters prepare for property protection near the town of Sussex Inlet on December 31

Of the NSW trucks many were found to be of poor quality, with some almost 30 years old and had an absence of roll bars. Pictured: RFS firefighters in Sussex Inlet

Of the NSW trucks many were found to be of poor quality, with some almost 30 years old and had an absence of roll bars. Pictured: RFS firefighters in Sussex Inlet

Of the NSW trucks many were found to be of poor quality, with some almost 30 years old and had an absence of roll bars. Pictured: RFS firefighters in Sussex Inlet

The outdated vehicles also cannot be fitted with modern equipment due to budgetary pressures.

Volunteer crews also battled fires with sub-par breathing masks, outdated GPS and IT systems and a shortage of helicopters.

NSW RFS members received P2 masks while fighting but these were deemed inadequate as they do not keep out gas or smoke.

Some crews paid for their own masks or fundraised to get proper breathing apparatus due to their concerns over the efficacy of the masks.      

VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS’ OUTDATED EQUIPMENT: 

 NEW SOUTH WALES:

  • Trucks were outdated and did not have roll bars
  • Lack of GPS and Auto Vehicle Location technology to locate tankers
  • Shortage of Blackhawk helicopters to monitor battlegrounds
  • Concerns raised over P2 masks not keeping out gas or smoke
  • Shortfall in numbers causing trucks to stand idle

VICTORIA

  • Fleet is believed to be oldest in the country with trucks more than 30 years old
  • Lowest number of volunteers at 34,380 operational volunteers 
  • Training programs are deemed inadequate 

 QUEENSLAND

  • Fleet are ageing and faulty with trucks up to 17 years old
  • There are about 1,000 fewer firefighters than is currently needed

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

  •  Safety equipment is missing with life-saving curtains and sprinkler systems that cool down windows not fitted across the fleet
  • Vehicles are so outdated and budget is so low they cannot be fitted with modern equipment
  • Brigade headquarters do not have running water
  • Country towns with small populations rely on ageing volunteers 

Source

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