Brigades battle for survival over blue card fight
A SENIOR firefighter said he was in a battle for the survival of Mackay's volunteer brigades, as a petition fighting a state government edict nears 1000 signatures.
Between managing his Kuttabul cane property and leading the Blackwood brigade, Wally Giumelli has gathered almost 800 digital and 200 paper signatures calling for the State Government to lift the blue card requirement for the Rural Fire Service.
"It's bureaucracy gone mad," the brigade first officer said.
"People are not putting up with it"
The battle has been brewing since October when the State Government mandated all Queensland Fire and Emergency Services staff and volunteers, excluding Primary Producer Brigades and Fire Wardens, gain the working with children checks by December 1.
Amid an intense fire season for much of Queensland, fireys were given a three-month extension, with applications due by March 31.
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This week it was reported barely a third of Queensland's rural fireys met the December 1 deadline to get a working-with-children check.
But Mackay region fireys are even further behind.
Only a quarter had applied for a blue card by the original deadline, a QFES spokeswoman said.
A total of 1240 Mackay brigade volunteers will need to complete their blue card applications by the end of March, or risk being kicked out of the RFS and fined up to $6500.
After 40 years of firefighting, Mr Giumelli said the threats were an "insult".
"We've got principles. To tell us we need blue cards to fight a fire is wrong. We have to stand up to fight," he said.
With many other senior volunteers threatening to hang up their yellow jackets, Mr Giumelli said he was concerned about an exodus of fire-fighting experience.
"We're going to lose them all as far as I can see. There's not too many left"
"They're going to lose all the experience because the older ones are fighting this."
Of the 8039 Queensland volunteers who have applied for a blue card, QFES said 26 volunteers had their application rejected due to criminal records for "serious offences''.
The offences disqualifying the Mackay volunteers are unknown but the list can include murder, rape, kidnapping, burglary and supplying dangerous drugs.