Gympie fire chief: 'fireys believe they're used as free labour'
THE State Government has been called on to adequately fund departments with frontline land management staff amid concern it is relying on fireys as "free labour".
The general manager of the Araluen-based Rural Fire Brigades Association Queensland, Justin Choveaux, said brigades and landholders were "vocal for years" over the state's inability to meet legal obligations for land management, and they needed either to fund staff or dispose of land.
It was revealed this week the State Government had not met hazard reduction targets over the past four years.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the reduced number of burns was due to changing weather and a "shorter window" to conduct them.
QFES commissioner Greg Leach also rejected claims authorities have not done enough to reduce bushfire fuel loads in the face of a narrowing window.
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Mr Choveaux agreed the window had shrunk - "there really was no window for burning this year" - but the problem had not popped up out of nowhere.
"They've built up over the past 10-15 years," he said.
"Parks have been run down over very many years."
As QFES and rural brigades own no land, it fell to the state to ensure they were managed. Without appropriate land management, Mr Choveaux said, rural brigades had to fight "prolonged fires on state land where the state has limited or no firefighting capacity due to budget constraints. Many brigades also believe Rural Fire and the QFES are being used as a source of free labour by some departments to manage their fire risk".