RFS volunteers needed (Community service announcement)

By 14 November 2006 27

It appears that the RFS (Rural Fire Service) is currently running at a bit over 50% of its optimum manning level.

As such I put it to all the RiotACTers and others to check out what it takes to become an RFS volunteer. Sure, it takes time, dedication, and the will to see it through, and the rewards are certainly not great, however, the RFS is a vital part of our community and will remain so.

Information about joining the RFS can be found here.

Interestingly, I went to an SES awards ceremony last night where a number of long serving SES members recieved very nice, framed certificates for their service. Tony Graham mentioned, in his lead up speech, that the average time a person spends in SES is about three years so it is reasonable to expect that this is the same for the RFS.

Both SES and RFS do have a retention problem so I will again implore anyone that is interested to explore the possibility of joining, not only RFS, but alternatively, the SES.

As I said, it’s hard, tiring, sometimes boring, dirty work, yet it is for the greater good of the community.

Think about it.

ESA website is here.

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27 Responses to
RFS volunteers needed (Community service announcement)
smokey2 2:31 pm
14 Nov 06

The ACT RFS need to have a good hard look at training and operational requirements. There is a difference in the operational aspects of both organisations. Three years in the RFS will not provide much experience when major fires occur much less frequently.

At the truck level -
It is important that at least one in the cab knows where to locate the vehicle and at least one on the back has got the ability to recognise dangers. Any mistake by the driver or on the back can jeopardise the safety of the unit in the current conditions.

The ability to manage a fire requires personel with the experience and ability to plan and safely manage a large number of resources.

It is much more than putting the wet stuff on the red stuff.

Thumper 2:44 pm
14 Nov 06

Yeah Smokey, I know, however, without new recruits coming into both services the ACT will be left with an experience void in the next 4 to 5 years.

This affects the RFS moreso than the SES because SES have more regular call outs in an operational sense and therefore the troops on the ground can be brought up to speed pretty quickly.

simto 3:00 pm
14 Nov 06

For those of us who are less than fit, and unlikely to become so within a short training period, what kind of assistance can we provide?

Yes, I’m being serious here – I don’t think of myself as the kind of person who could, physically, be of help to the RFS or SES, but I’m happy to give of myself in other ways.

Thumper 3:26 pm
14 Nov 06

Give them a call Simto, there is always HQ positions and back up staff. Not everyone does the filed work, someone has to stay back and do all the other stuff.

simto 4:13 pm
14 Nov 06

Thanks – have done so. For anybody else thinking of doing the same, the fastest link is probably this one. (hope the link works so I don’t get killed…)

Mr Evil 4:22 pm
14 Nov 06

Thumper, I am a fat-ish bastard, but I’ll have a bit of a look into this too. Probably about time I did something for the country instead of shit-stirring from behind a keyboard!

Simto, thanks for asking the question that I was too scared to ask. :)

PigDog 4:24 pm
14 Nov 06

So what sort of committment am I looking at here Thumper?

Jey 5:46 pm
14 Nov 06

“Generally speaking volunteers can expect to give up to 2 – 3 hours each week for training. They will be asked to attend community activities about 3 or 4 times per year, and this can be for up to 6 or 8 hours each time.”

From this part of the website.

Simto, would we really kill you for not hyperlinking properly?

J Dawg 6:01 pm
14 Nov 06


From experience, the commitment isn’t too bad. We train for 2 hours every fortnight, except when first joining, when we have had 2 hours per week until we finished the basic training (about 6 weeks).

Just a note to everyone: the RFS is very lenient about committing. Sure, you will have to try your hardest to show up for 2 hours every two weeks, but if you can’t, that is fine. Also, if there is a fire, you don’t HAVE to go, if you have other plans/working/have been drinking, a simple ‘no’ will be accepted.
After all, it is volunteer work!

Jey 6:29 pm
14 Nov 06

You’re no good at a fire if you’re pissed or hungover!

Thumper 6:34 pm
14 Nov 06


You will be a volunteer. You are expected to do the training and to take it seriously, afterall, fire fighting and SES ops can be hazardous to your health.

The initial training as a newbie will be, alternatively, fun, and boring. However, the ESA cannot send untrained people into the field. Get through the initial training first.

After your initial training you will end up with a brigade, in RFA, or a unit, in SES, where you generally train once a week for three to four hours.

You do not have to turn up to every training. You can put in a minimum of time to ensure your skills allow you to do the job, or you can do more. You also don’t have to turn up to every op, as I said, you are a volunteer and you have family, friends, a job, and other commitments. I tend to hover somewhere in the middle.

The commitment is not great when you break it down and you get to work in a team with others who are also dedicated to what they are doing. Some of my best mates came out of the 2003 fires, that in itself is a great reward.

Admittedly, it isn’t for everyone, yet I’ve enjoyed my ten years in SES and will continue for a lot more years yet. I guess you would have to try it and see what you think.

Yes, you will be fucked around, you will be cold and wet and exhausted, or hot and sweaty and covered in black soot, and you will think to yourself why am I doing this?

You do because you want to, because you believe you are making a difference, because you think that should contribute back to society, because it’s something different, and because of your mates. And because you can.

The rewards are small, an old guy unable to do anything about a tree down on his roof, a woman with a few kids and tree across the driveway, a person lost in the bush, and in the firies case, the dangerous red stuff, which scares the willies out of me. You get a sense of satisfaction helping these people and I think this is what it all boils down to in the end.

I cannot say why people volunteer to do this as there are a miriad of reasons, however, try it and see. If you try and fail, have you failed? Not in my book.

If you don’t like it then so be it. No-one is going think lesser of you.

End of sermon :)

Disclaimer: These may or may not be the views of the ESA but are my own personal views. I also believe that those better off in society owe it to others, less well off, especially in the case of the elderly and infirm and those who are unable to help themselves.

Nuff said. Maybe I’ll see a few of you guys out in the tiger country one day.

Thumper 6:39 pm
14 Nov 06

Yeah Jey and Dawg,

If you’re pissed or hungover or stuffed or have other commitments, it’s okay. It’s understandable.

We all have lives.


Thumper 6:43 pm
14 Nov 06

I should also add that, as much as ESA gets a bagging, your senior officers will stand behind you, or next to you all the way.

At least, that is my experience.

Spectra 7:30 pm
14 Nov 06

Thanks for the info, Thumper. It’s inspired me, at least, to take a closer look at helping out.

shauno 5:06 am
15 Nov 06

I was in the ACT ES in the early 90′s. I tried to join up with the rural fire service in 2004 I think but basically got given the run around from one phone number to the next then forgotten about for a while. In the end I just gave up.

smokey2 9:26 am
15 Nov 06

I spent 3 decades in the mob down south. The big burns these days like the campaign fires of 2003 or interstate support consisted mainly of vol crews well past middle age. Everyone else is to busy. The old days consisted of all young blokes while nowadays it ia all old blokes and a few younger women.

CouldExpire 9:46 am
15 Nov 06

Also there is a fun element to all the hard yakker..
I dont know how it worls in the ACT but being in the NSW RFS, were like family to each other and have a hell of alot of fun within and outside the station!

Thumper 10:14 am
15 Nov 06

Goes without saying….


simto 12:48 pm
15 Nov 06

In the “incredibly stupid questions” category – why is it the SES (State Emergency Service) when we’re a territory? Is there a reason why they just didn’t go with TES?

Thumper 12:59 pm
15 Nov 06

It used to be called ACTES but it was confusing to the punters who only knew the SES, so it is now the ACTSES.

J Dawg 11:47 pm
15 Nov 06

The big burns these days like the campaign fires of 2003 or interstate support consisted mainly of vol crews well past middle age. Everyone else is to busy.


Whilst a significant portion of my brigade is around middle aged, 90% of the people who joined from the last intake were uni-student age! And the crews are definitely not past middle age. Times are changing, more youth are involved.

Maelinar 3:51 pm
23 Nov 06

As a less than recent volunteer I can give you a couple of tips towards joining SES or RFS.

Firstly, become aware of the shed closest to your house (that’s the likeliest place you will get assigned to – notwithstanding you can just transfer there at a later date if you don’t like your assigned unit anyway)

Secondly, go there; Wednesday nights for RFS, Thursday nights for SES. Say to the chap who greets you at the door that you are interested in joining up and hang out with them for the rest of the night. With any luck you may get a fancy pair of overalls to wear, and be included in any activity, but don’t count on it too much as it depends on the activity.

Thirdly, If the shed isn’t too rigid, you may even get the opportunity to discuss important matters of the day and radical theoretical concepts over some amber liquid at the end of the night – without being presumptuous about hanging out with a group of alcoholics or anything else ESA may care to read into this sentence since I know you are reading it, you can actually learn whether or not you would like to be in the SES or RFS, and a lot about what they really do from the tales they weave. You also bond to the group and form team comradere that will last a lifetime if conditions are right.

Fourthly, don’t give up. I registered to become a volunteer in november/december and finally made it to orientation training in about April/May the following year. While the training team and recruitment for me was glacially slow, the rest of the SES/RFS are not, so please do not be demoralised by their inaction. During that time, you should be more than welcome to return to the shed you showed up at, and it goes a long way towards your trial period (all units have a trial period where your acceptance into the team is assessed).

Big Al 4:08 pm
23 Nov 06

With a couple more names they might even let us have our very own Riot-ACT squad!

I suspect that my fire-line days are behind me, but I can operate a barby pretty well and I once organised a piss-up at a brewery – these might be useful skills – looks like I should get off my fat arse as well.

Skidbladnir 3:28 pm
18 Feb 08

Revisiting a very old thread…

Whats involved with volunteering at the moment, and where can we get more info, if we’re fit willing, and look dashingly handsome in overalls?

(none of these links work anymore)

Thumper 3:32 pm
18 Feb 08

Thumper 3:39 pm
18 Feb 08

Mælinar 4:06 pm
18 Feb 08

Its also a proven fact that you pick up more single girls in orange overalls than the yellow ones.

Some parts of what I just said may contain factual inaccuracies that are simply just unproven.

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