Local volunteer services, such as CFA, SES and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) are struggling to attract volunteers with many more people working ‘off the hill’ than previously, last night’s (September 22) Firefox meeting was told.
Hosting last night’s Firefoxes dinner and forum, Michelle Dunscombe stated that 44 per cent of the community had moved to the Kinglake Ranges since Black Saturday.
“I used to walk into the supermarket and I knew everyone, now I don’t,” Dunscombe said.
Kinglake CFA Captain Steve Bell and Third Lieutenant Samantha Moffitt raised serious concerns about the declining membership of the Kinglake CFA.
“Before the [Black Saturday] fires we had over 60 members.”
“Out of that about 75 per cent were female. That’s dwindled down to I think I’ve got four active female firefighters now,” Bell said.
The change in demographics following Black Saturday has seen Kinglake and Kinglake West CFA have members not turn out as often, move off ‘the hill’ or just burn out after many have contributed for 10, 20 years or more.
“Our membership has gone down. Realistically I’ve now only got eight active firefighters to get a truck out the door.”
“I need at least five [volunteers] on a truck,” Bell said.
Lt Moffit commented how the lack of volunteers was effecting Kinglake’s ability to respond to fires and emergencies, with the community relying on support from Kinglake West, Toolangi, Flowerdale and other nearby CFA fire brigades who ‘stepped up’ to fill the gaps.
“Last summer was scary we had two weeks with only three of us responding to a heck of a lot of fires.”
“Nearly every day for two weeks [it was] just us, we were exhausted. Your pager goes off at work and you try to get to the station to help this community,” Moffitt said.
Realistically it takes six months to train a firefighter with Kinglake and Kinglake West CFA now urgently seeking volunteers, although this “won’t help with the upcoming fire season,” Bell said.
“We need reliable people who don’t look at their pagers and see MVA [car accident] and think oh well I’m not going to that.”
“We need people who don’t look at their pagers, they just hear the pager beeps and turn out if they can. They just turn up and jump on a [fire] truck.”
“We’re not really in a good spot right now,” Bell said.
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