Volunteers from the Sugarloaf Rural Fire Brigade Eric McCulloch, Garry Tutt, Gary Kelley, Allan Unold and Lauren Kelley.
Volunteers from the Sugarloaf Rural Fire Brigade Eric McCulloch, Garry Tutt, Gary Kelley, Allan Unold and Lauren Kelley.

‘Will hamper us’: Fireys contend with new COVID-19 rules

FIRE danger ratings around Stanthorpe rose yesterday from low-moderate to high.

The region is not in the clear when it comes to fire danger and it begs the question, how will fireys operate with strict COVID-19 restrictions imposed?

Sugarloaf Rural Fire Brigade’s First Officer James Massey says the rules are a hindrance, but they have little choice but to abide.

“We have been told what we should and shouldn’t do and how address it all,” Mr Massey said.

“There’s certain things we have to do before we go out on a job. We have to wear masks and we have to try at all times to create as much distance as we can between one another.

“Then we have to clean out the truck when we get out.”

Time is often of the essence when crews respond to jobs and Mr Massey said it will make life tougher.

“It will hamper us.”

The fire danger rating was changed on Wednesday.
The fire danger rating was changed on Wednesday.

Equipment can’t be shared and they’re expected to clean their hands every 20 minutes and upon getting back into the vehicle.

“It’ll be a much more tightly organised situation than maybe it’s been in the past.”

The number of volunteers and age of volunteer fireys is not a new issue, but with an older demographic more susceptible to the virus, it’s a headache Mr Massey said.

“One of the biggest problems we have is a lot of volunteers don’t understand the risk factor with their age.

“As soon as you get over a certain age, like myself, you’re more likely to have breathing problems and it limits how many I may be able to send to the fire line.

“There’s a lot more variables we now have to consider.”

For the next four days, Stanthorpe will be under a high fire danger rating.

“Because of the wind, because the countryside is starting to dry up again and as soon as we start getting frosts the rating really jumps because of the big fuel loading.

“It is scary but it’s what’s going to happen and we need to be prepared,” Mr Massey said.