There are more than 70,000 volunteers and around 900 paid staff in Australia’s Rural Fire Service.
For months, firefighters have been battling blazes all across the country. Daily.
The country is in the middle of an unprecedented bushfire crisis: In New South Wales alone, we’ve already lost close to three million hectares of land, 724 homes, 49 facilities and 1582 outbuildings and six lives, and it’s not predicted to get easier anytime soon.
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The Prime Minister has for weeks insisted professional and volunteer firefighters have all the resources they need.
But on Thursday, Scott Morrison announced $11 million for the country’s aerial firefighting capabilities.
The immediate cash injection will allow the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to buy more aircraft or extend current leases.
“The federal government is responding to all of the needs that have been presented to us by our state and territory authorities,” he said.
Morrison said he was advised firefighters had all the equipment they needed, after reports emerged that masks were being paid for through crowdfunding websites.
Leighton Drury, NSW State Secretary of Fire Brigade Employees’ Union is calling for more action and resourcing as we head into the heat of summer.
“We aren’t even in the heart of summer yet and we are already stretched. When we get weeks with a number of consecutive days over 30 degrees and westerly winds these fires will really take off and become more dangerous and destructive than anything we’ve seen so far.” he said.
Firefighters have been crowdsourcing.
On Wednesday, the Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade, based on NSW’s Central Coast, made a public appeal for donations to purchase fire fighting masks.
“[The brigade] has been manning three trucks on rotating shifts for the last two weeks to fight the Hawkesbury and Central Coast sections of the Mega Fire, while also sending members north over the last three months,” treasurer Joe Arena told ABC Central Coast.
“Our brigade has been desperately trying to protect homes and property – completely exhausted – and I’m horrified to say this, using NSW Rural Fire Service issued dust masks to protect our airways. In defence of the RFS, these are unprecedented conditions, on a scale no one could have anticipated, but we have no choice but to go out and fight fire with what we have.
“My Brigade is currently fundraising so that we can purchase and maintain P3 Masks, similar to these – Promask Twin Full Face Respirator Readypak – A1B1E1K1P3 for 8 members – one for every seat on our heavily used bush trucks.”