Fire-fighter Volunteer Shortage

SFA posted on an ABC Emergency FB post in reply to a news report that DFES (Western Australia) are worried that volunteer fire-fighters leaving, will not be replaced, and will jeopardise the response to fires next fire season. 

Read the article & watch the Video below.

We did our research & discovered that DFES won’t be recruiting career / paid fire-fighters in W.A. probably until 2019.   If you look at their website you will see they have 2 intakes per year usually each with about 24 trainees.

Yes, nobody needs to tell us that it costs a lot of money to train these fire-fighters and then it costs money to actually pay them.

As at today the DFES website states that there are 1123 career Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) firefighters in Western Australia (WA) who provide firefighting, fire prevention, safety and rescue services throughout the state.

FRS firefighters are responsible for:


They also state that West Australians (WA) in rural and pastoral areas rely heavily on Bush Fire Brigades (BFB) for protection against the threat and devastation of fire.

Over 22,000 Bush Fire Brigades bush fire service volunteers protect WA from bushfires through fire prevention and risk management, fire suppression and fire safety education.

Not all of the volunteer work involves active fire containment or rescue activities. DFES provides training for fire education programs that involve volunteers visiting schools, service groups, seniors’ homes and local businesses to promote safety messages.

Some BFBs on Perth’s urban bushland fringe also operate as Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) brigades, taking additional responsibility for fires involving structures, chemical spills and assisting with road crash rescues.


List of Brigades:

On top of this there are over 2,500 Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) members from 92 brigades in Western Australia who provide firefighting and prevention services throughout the state.

VFRS firefighters undertake a range of responsibilities including:

Now here is a transcript of the ABC report mentioned, and Comments so far, with SFA’s inital reply and notes.

ABC Emergency

Friday 12 May 2017

The Department of Fire and Emergency Services WA is warning a shortage of volunteers could impact on its ability to respond to emergencies, particularly in country areas.

The department loses 300 volunteers each year but that number will increase as it’s ageing volunteer workforce retires.

In some country areas, there are only two or three people in a unit.

Person A.   We have 6 active members in my brigade. One is leaving the area soon, so 5. Only one member is under 50. Two of the 5 work out of the area during the week. We need more school based training to develop and encourage the younger generation to step up. This is happening in some areas but I’ve always hoped it could be rolled out in every high school.

Person B.  My 12 year old daughter had her first training night as a junior member last night.

SFA’s reply:    Why aren’t there more paid Fire-fighters then? Don’t lives matter enough for the career fire-fighter numbers to be boosted??

Person C.   There are 26,000 volunteers covering the vast expanse of WA. It would be incredibly expensive to pay them all.

[ SFA note:   We never said PAY all of the volunteers.  Didn’t we say can’t more fire-fighters be recruited &  paid,  and NOT  can’t 26000 fire-fighters be recruited and paid  ]

Person D.  You could have paid FF if your rates can cover the cost. In rural areas that’s a prohibitive cost, hence the volunteers, Australia’s people led solution to remote or rural living.

SFA note:  What price is set on saving lives?  With volunteer fire-fighters leaving in droves in W.A. & not being replaced, the Solution needs a solution.  Did anyone read the actual News report?  Yes we know alot of money is involved for maintaining  ALL emergency and support services in any State of Australia, but what emphasis does the collective want to put their money on?

Person E.  It’s not just about fire either. SES and marine rescue are volunteers too and are dealing with the same issues.

Person F.   You’re going to have paid firefighters in towns that are lucky to get one fire call a month?

[  SFA note:   Wouldn’t you say “where they are un-lucky to get a fire call a month”  –  do people realise Fire-fighters do more than putting out fires?  Did the original Comment say “train & pay thousands of fire-fighters and stick them in the regional towns??”   Think outside the box !!  ]

Person G.  Sadly this is the case for many agencies that provide support in emergency events. School based education & training is the way to go.

Person H.  We need to remember that so much of our society now is directed away from the community and towards individual success, our current government sends out this message all the time.  So many jobs now do not allow time or support for volunteers because they are operating on thin margins and minimum workforce numbers.

The leaner meaner society comes at a cost and this is just part of that cost.

Person I.  They should offer incentives like nationally accredited training that can then be used to help volunteers with their career or job search. As a firefighter I’m trained to respond to structure fires, MVAs, HAZMAT, Urban search and rescue but I don’t have any usable qualifications meaning the fire wardens where I work are more qualified than I am.

Person F.   All your training should already be nationally accredited, that’s what all those letters and numbers on your certificates indicate.

[ SFS note –  there is no need Person F to be sarcastic, get your facts right on both occasions, and why the heck have such an aggressive attitude??  This is supposed to be a civil dialogue with a vested and shared objective / purpose.  By the way HAZMAT refers to a chemical spill, not to the name of a Degree.   ]

Person I.  Volunteers only get issued with DFES certificates

Person J.  Only 1 course I have done is nationally accredited DFES doesn’t believe they need to meet national standards.

And people are leaving because of the new stupid training pathway.


 SFA:  Talking to local people, even they are saying there needs to be incentives for volunteer fire-fighters.  The average person understands the many issues here.  Many would like the small number of paid fire-fighters recruited in W.A. to be boosted a little, and certainly want an intake in 2017 and / or in 2018 !!   Has the Premier spent so much money that the State can’t afford to recruit Fire-fighters??   Priorities of the State don’t include recruiting Fire-fighters ??   More paid fire-fighters will complement the dwindling volunteers.

DFES needs to run nationally accredited courses and provide easy training pathways, for volunteer fire-fighters.

SFA will be putting ideas to DFES and the W.A. Premier for incentives, as a possible solution to get new and young volunteer Fire-fighters in Western Australia.  We will be writing to DFES to ask why there will be no intakes of paid / career Fire-fighters in 2017 or 2018.

Also what is critically needed in Western Australia is for the 14 Recommendations of the Harvey-Yarloop Euan Ferguson Report to be implemented,  ESPECIALLY  FIRE PREVENTION  through mechanical and other fuel reduction. 

Please write to both DFES and to Parks & Wildlife about fuel reduction.

It’s time to stop sticking your head in the sand ….. thinking someone else will campaign enough for you.  People power is needed to get things done, otherwise more Lives will be lost.  A ground-swell of voices is needed.



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