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Fire fighters not to be held responsible for 2003 bushfire: Fire Service president

This just arrived in my inbox at 2QN (not sure why, but I also just received a press release about a power failure in far-west New South Wales, so it must be one of those days).


Brian McKinlay, president of the Rural Fire Service Association, the only recognised body that represents 70,000 rural fire fighters in NSW, said volunteer fire fighters are fully protected under the Rural Fires Act and expressed outrage at suggestions that volunteers were to be held personally liable for the deadly Canberra fires in 2003.

Mr McKinlay’s comments followed ACT Supreme Court legal proceedings last week in relation to the Canberra Fires in which it was suggested that volunteer fire fighters had been betrayed.

He said comments from “unauthorised fire fighting organisations and those with political agendas” caused undue stress and concern to members and indicated a complete lack of knowledge and expertise in fire fighting policy and management in NSW and other jurisdictions.

“At no time has it been suggested in or outside the ACT Supreme Court that our volunteers are not looked after in the event of being involved in legal proceedings. Rural fire fighters, particularly volunteers, are fully protected by the legislation which governs their activities.

“The misleading information is being promoted by people who have little if not any knowledge about the legal protection provided to our volunteers,” Mr McKinlay said.

He said Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons also expressed his “unequivocal commitment to representing most vigorously the interests of all members against legal proceedings associated with the conduct of . . . fire fighting and related activities” in an open letter to all members.

Mr McKinlay said in addition to the protection provided to volunteer firefighters under the law, public liability protection is also available as well as a worker’s compensation scheme in the event of injury or death.

“The experience, dedication and commitment of volunteer fire fighters form a vital part in fire fighting in Australia and whose advice is crucial in terms of any ongoing fire management policy in this country.

“Our members do a wonderful job and, as President and a volunteer myself, I would be the first to react if I believed members were not being provided with the protection they so justly deserve,” Mr McKinlay said.

(contact details removed)

Press release ends

I’m feeling out of the loop on Canberra’s commotions and rumblings already.