Firefighters apply heat to government during review

Firefighters apply heat to government during review.
Firefighters apply heat to government during review. Simon Green

TED Malone got a dose of rural reality when droves of volunteer firefighters turned up to a Barcaldine meeting with soot-smeared faces, clothes reeking of smoke and tempers threatening to overheat.

The Assistant Minister for Emergency Services and Mirani MP who is heading a ministerial review into the Rural Fire Service, didn't fuel speculation about the future of paid support staff in the Central Highlands and west.

Instead, he acknowledged local issues around training, equipment, red tape and the issuing of multi-agency permits.

"(In Barcaldine) they were concerned about the amount of training they were receiving. And I think that was problematic about the amount of grass and dry matter and the seasons they have had over the past couple of years," Mr Malone said.

"The other issues were issues that can be solved quite easily. But they did express, every one of them, great support for the staff they had in Barcaldine and were very insistent that the government not close down the organisation or the staff representatives there.

"Even as we were meeting, the fires were still burning and ... I thought under the circumstances the numbers would be reduced, but I was very surprised and very pleased to see the numbers turn up."

In Emerald on Wednesday, Mr Malone said systemic issues uncovered to date could be solved "quite easily" with administration, stronger ties and more support for volunteers.

Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland's Emerald representative Shane Pilkington said the turnout locally was sound.

"Basically Ted Malone said that at the end of the day, what they are hoping to achieve is an approach of if it's not broken, they're not going to try and fix it," he said.

'If it's not working too well, they will fix it, and if it's not working at all, they will get rid of it.

"Ted has got good standing here. He's from the country and undoubtedly there are going to be changes, but I think this is more about empowering the brigades to manage their own areas."

Mr Malone said he would hold a day-long meeting with the relevant government departments in Brisbane on December 11 to discuss the review findings to date.

"I'm hoping to get an understanding right across government to hold a meeting with rural firies. It's more about land management," he said.

"This review isn't just about putting fires out, it's actually burning at the right time of year."



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