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Want to be a volunteer firefighter?

By johnboy 21 February 2013 28

The ACT Rural Fire Service is holding an information night if getting to play with fire and big toys is your kind of thing:

The ACT Rural Fire Service (ACTRFS) will host a special information night on Tuesday 26 February, 2013, for prospective volunteers who wish to join the service.

“Over 265 offers to become volunteer firefighters have been received since 1 January, 2013,” ACTRFS Chief Officer Andrew Stark said.

“Tuesday night’s information evening is an opportunity for all interested members of the Canberra community

to have the recruitment process further explained and a chance to meet volunteer members of the ACTRFS Brigades,” he said.

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28 Responses to
Want to be a volunteer firefighter?
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IrishPete 7:39 pm 23 Feb 13

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd said :

Of course you can critique something you are not a member of. What a ridiculous idea to claim otherwise.

just don’t expect us to take any notice of you.


Pork Hunt 5:18 pm 23 Feb 13

BimboGeek said :

Well if the whole thing is full of wussy sissy city boys I’d better get in there and show them how fire works! Sign me up!

Fireworks are banned!

BimboGeek 4:15 pm 23 Feb 13

Well if the whole thing is full of wussy sissy city boys I’d better get in there and show them how fire works! Sign me up!

Comic_and_Gamer_Nerd 2:03 pm 23 Feb 13

Of course you can critique something you are not a member of. What a ridiculous idea to claim otherwise.

Thumper 1:59 pm 23 Feb 13

IrishPete said :

DrKoresh said :

IrishPete said :

IrishPete – volunteer firefighter for 10 years.

Any more comments?


Are you a monkey? No, but seriously, what did you mean with your original comment? It’s not like you to talk down on whole groups of people out of the blue, what were you trying to say?

We have a saying in our fire brigade, that criticism is only accepted from members. Until you join up, you have no right to criticise us.

Criticising the RFS is not “talking down on whole groups of people” but criticising a model of service that is cheapskate and much less effective than it could be.

It’s not complicated. If you pay nothing you get amateurs. Well-meaning, committed amateurs (like me, perhaps) but amateurs, by definition.

If bush fire fighting, or SES work, is an essential community service, then perhaps you should consider paying for it, like for military reserves, (or the folks misdescribed as volunteers in today’s Canberra Times puff piece about search and rescue, I read the whole article looking for mention of someone who isn’t a paid professional, and could find only vague references; everyone specifically referred to in the article is a professional who has “volunteered” for extra training; but I read it quickly, so I may have missed something).

We pay our international athletes but not our bushfire fighters. Not even to attend training. So training becomes optional, and people don’t attend. So they are less skilled that they could be, putting themselves and the community at greater risk.

And I love the fact that not one person responding to my comment said they are a RFS or SES (or similar) member – someone rode on his high-achieving sister’s coat-tails, another vaguely implied he was “at” the 2003 Canberra fires but I’m not clear whether he was or just clumsy wording. Everyone responding is apparently happy for “someone else” to do it, unpaid, but apparently won’t do it themselves.

What other essential community services shall we make unpaid? Defence of the nation? Nursing? Policing?

Incidentally, some firefighters do get paid, such as the seasonal ones hired by TAMS and equivalent organisatons. Mind you the pay is terrible.


Just read the article and you’re right. The USAR guys in the article are not volunteers, they are all paid.

IrishPete 1:41 pm 23 Feb 13

johnboy said :

Why not write a dedicated post on this issue IP?

No thanks. Happy where I am!


IrishPete 1:40 pm 23 Feb 13

andym said :

BimboGeek – I think in the ACT RFS you will find that most members are “city folk”. This does not present any particular training issues. Regardless of where you live you have to be trained to do the various aspects of fire fighting SAFELY and correctly.

IP – At present people who join the RFS do it because they want to. They wish to contribute something back to the community and they get enjoyment from it. No jurisdiction in Australia could afford to pay for this service without massively increasing taxes or rates. Eg NSW RFS numbers in excess of 20 000 people. The adminstration costs and additional paper work brigades would have to do to support this also would be an issue I think. Though NSW RFS do get a token in the form of free access to NSW National Parks, which is kind of nice.

ACT RFS member 12 years

and some free coffee vouchers for McDonalds McCafe.

Bush/grass/forest fires cost hundreds of millions per year in Australia. I’ve never seen an economic analysis of the costs and benefits of employing professional firefighters, to conduct preventive work as well as more rapid (and professional) response. You will know that the paid SMSS now exists, presumably because volunteer brigades simply don’t have the capacity nor skills nor equipment to do all the required HRs.

Many (probably most, or all) volunteers I’ve served alongside express irritation at being at fires with staff from National Parks or Forests NSW or whoever, knowing those people are being paid overtime rates to be there, while you are losing money or using up your Leave. And then they sometimes get sent home because they’ve come to the end of their shift. Leaving the unpaid volunteers to control the fire (in these circumstances it’s usually “their” fire, not ours). If you’re in the NSW RFS, you’ve been in that position. (And they get V8 Landcruisers and we get 30yo ones.)

Much of the administration and paperwork is already in place, as the service becomes more and more “professional” but without the pay.

A system like the Retained professional firefighters would work well, and would probably not be expensive.

I won’t go into the reasons people join the RFS – there are a variety, and they’re not all praiseworthy. A more professional system could be more selective, instead of taking virtually all comers out of desperation. I’m glad you didn’t repeat the NSW RFS’ claim that they have 70,000 volunteers, which is extremely suspect.


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