Lismore firefighters (from front) Captain Brett Lowden, retained firefighter Ian Murphy, retained firefighter Scott Coster and deputy captain Tony Elliott.
Lismore firefighters (from front) Captain Brett Lowden, retained firefighter Ian Murphy, retained firefighter Scott Coster and deputy captain Tony Elliott. Jacklyn Wagner

Battling to retain firefighters

BRETT LOWDEN, captain of the Lismore Fire Brigade, wants people to sign up as retained firefighters to boost numbers in the Northern Rivers zone.

“There is a high turnover because of the commitment to families and jobs,” he said.

Lismore Fire Brigade currently has 13 retained firefighters, but would like the optimum number of 20. Four permanent crew are present at the station from 6am until 6pm every night. The retained firefighters back them up during the day, but become crucial after 6pm when they are on-call for emergencies.

Captain Lowden has been helping the community as a retained firefighter for 13 years and manages a macadamia farm when he isn't on duty.

Retained firefighters are different to the volunteers who help with the rural fire service.

Retained firefighters receive a fortnightly retainer of $25 (for the first year) ranging up to $99 (for captains), plus a call-out payment.

To earn a post, applicants must pass a medical and police check and must be able to think on their feet, Captain Lowden said.

The generosity of employers comes into play as well.

Northern Rivers Zone Commander, Supt Chris Fabri, said the economic crisis hadn't helped.

“The bulk of our country staff are retained firefighters and we rely on the goodwill of the community to let them participate,” he said.

“If we are down on numbers it falls to a core group of firefighters,”

The Bangalow and Byron fire brigades are hosting information evenings on becoming a retained firefighter on Wednesday, November 4, at 7pm at their stations. Call Andrew Hill for Bangalow on 0407 224 724 and Gary Speers for Byron Bay on 0415 698 100.

HAVE YOU GOT WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A FIREFIGHTER? Phone 6624 3266 or SMS 0428 264 948


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