Larry Coleman
Larry Coleman File

Help for rural firies may be lost

VETERAN firefighter Larry Coleman fears his push to start a rural taskforce of Rockhampton volunteers is tied up in bureaucratic red tape.

Larry says he could muster about 150 Rockhampton people who are keen to volunteer and help support rural brigades across Central Queensland.

He says he’s also got significant financial commitments, totalling more than $250,000 in the pipeline, but these are starting to wither because of the lengthy delay.

Larry said after speaking with Premier Anna Bligh and others about the concept he officially pitched his proposal to the Queensland Government in August.

However, he’s no closer to getting an answer or knowing when that might happen.

At least he’s got Member for Keppel Paul Hoolihan on his side.

Mr Hoolihan said he thought Larry’s idea had merit, particularly in light of the big bushfires that threatened the city earlier this year.

Then exhausted urban and rural firefighters worked continuously for weeks with little reprieve.

Larry said if his plan had of been in place then, it would have eased the pressure.

“Over the past five years I have spoken to numerous people wanting to join a rural fire brigade, but have found it difficult due to their location in the city, and have suffered the small-town mentality of ‘you don’t live here so you don’t belong’,” said Larry.

He has been associated with rural fire brigades since 1965 and is a brigade training support officer.

“This factor restricts the number of active members in small community brigades.”

He said the goal was to build up a station which could be manned on weekends during the fire season for immediate deployment to any request in Central Queensland as made by the head office.

Volunteers would be trained and, in times like the recent bushfires, provide support.

Larry said these bushfires exposed the problems within the current system.

“What we must do is learn from our experiences, so we don’t get caught again, he said.

“The rural fire service benefits the community in more ways than one because it also gives the younger men and women the chance to serve the community and interact with senior people to install a sense of pride and achievement in a character-building environment.”

Mr Hoolihan said Larry’s proposal was a good example of “thinking outside the box”.

“I think it would be a good idea, as many people in towns or cities have friends and relatives in the country and would dearly love to assist,” Mr Hoolihan said.

“This would go a long way to rebuilding the gap between city and country and take of some of the pressure on smaller brigades.”

In response to Larry’s proposal, a statement was issued on behalf of Emergency Services Minister Neil Roberts.

“While I haven’t seen the details of the submission at this stage, its feasibility will be evaluated by the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service in due course,” the statement said.

“We are constantly looking at ways to strengthen the delivery of emergency services to benefit all Queenslanders.

“The Queensland Fire and Rescue Service is currently staffed by more than 2100 full-time firefighters, who are supported by about 2000 auxiliary firefighters, in addition to our 34,000 rural volunteers. The Bligh government has allocated $433 million in this year’s budget to support our state’s fire service to ensure it continues to provide appropriate service to cities and rural locations.”

Anyone interested in Larry’s proposal can call 4934 5577 up to 10pm.

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