Fire fight burns millions
MILLIONS of dollars may have gone up in smoke, but Premier Anna Bligh reckons every cent has been money well spent.
Well, to say the money went up in smoke isn't completely true.
The job of protecting Rockhampton lives and property in recent days from the worst bushfires in living memory has been a costly exercise, running into the millions of dollars.
Rockhampton has just seen Queensland's largest ever firefighting operation.
Queensland Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Commissioner for the central region Neil Gallant yesterday said the final cost was going to be “several million”.
Assistant Commissioner Gallant estimated the costs so far “about $2 million ... but that's little more than a preliminary estimate.”
No matter what the total figure turns out to be, Ms Bligh said you couldn't put a price on saving lives and property.
“Every cent that has been put into this effort has been well worth it when you see the property and lives saved,” Ms Bligh said.
“This is Queensland's largest ever (firefighting operation) and it has taken us to our limits.”
Assistant Commissioner Gallant said about 200 firefighters and support staff had been involved in the Rockhampton district.
He said three-quarters of these were volunteer firefighters who didn't get paid to tackle blazes.
“The extra money is costs above and beyond those involved in running our region.”
These include big costs such as overtime paid for permanent staff, bringing in the aircraft and helicopters, providing accommodation and food for the visiting firefighters and other expenses such as hiring a bulldozer at short notice to help cut fire breaks.
Assistant Commissioner Gallant said with the Rockhampton area declared a disaster zone, special funds could be accessed to cover the extra costs.
“This is the worst fire season ever; no-one can remember anything like this,” he said.
“That's not just firefighters saying this; I've spoken to residents who have lived here for 50 years and they say the same thing.”