One-in-three volunteer fireys kicked out
QUEENSLAND will lose a third of its volunteer firefighters this month, after a bureaucratic bust-up over blue cards to work with children.
More than 8000 Rural Fire Service volunteers, who bravely battled the worst bushfires in living memory last year, failed to apply for "working with children'' checks by the March 31 deadline last week.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) Commissioner Greg Leach will now write to the management committees of brigades to "recommend terminating the membership'' of volunteers without blue cards.
"Those who decline to apply will be choosing not to continue in their role,'' a QFES spokesman said yesterday.
"There is no fine for individuals. However, they will not be tasked to incidents and will not be permitted to attend the fireground if they do not hold a current blue card.''
Asked how Queensland would find enough volunteers to fight bushfires, the QFES said it "has sufficient resources to maintain an effective fire and emergency service response in the community.''
The spokesman said volunteers who missed the March 31 deadline would be sent a letter late this month "advising them they will be unable to continue their duties without a blue card''.
"Individuals can still apply for a blue card after they receive a letter, if they choose,'' he said.
The spokesman said 75 per cent of QFES personnel requiring a Blue Card had applied for one.
But QFES data obtained by The Sunday-Mail reveals that 6127 Rural Fire Service volunteers - or one in three - failed to apply.
More than half the volunteers in far north Queensland, and 40 per cent in the central, northern and south western regions, do not have a blue card.
Rural Fire Brigades Association general manager Justin Choveaux yesterday said the ban meant half the volunteers in the Barron River electorate of Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford would not be able to fight fires.
He said the Rural Fire Brigade did not have enough volunteers to carry out controlled burn-offs before the next bushfire season. The State Government is forcing volunteers to apply for blue cards - which screen them for criminal offences including rape, child abuse and sexual assault - because Crown law advice has reclassified them as "providing a health service to children''.
Thousands of volunteers have defied the order because they object to the red tape, and feel they are being portrayed as paedophiles.
NSW volunteers, who are not required to hold blue cards, will be allowed to fight fires in Queensland.
Originally published as One-in-three volunteer fireys kicked out