Sign your organisation on to the open letter using the contact details below.
Are you an individual wanting to sign on your support for the idea? Add your name here.
We, the undersigned organisations, call on the Victorian Allan Government to establish a Volunteer Remote Area Firefighting Team open to urban Victorians to join.
The Hon. Jacinta Allan, Premier of Victoria
The Hon. Jaclyn Symes, Minister for Emergency Services
The Hon. Steve Dimopoulos, Minister for the Environment, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation
Climate change is supercharging our bushfire seasons. Victoria’s latest Climate Science Report predicts the annual number of high fire danger days in Victoria to increase by over 60% by the 2050s. These bushfires threaten Victorian lives, health, industry, First Nations cultural heritage and biodiversity on an unprecedented scale.
Longer, more intense bushfire seasons are placing heavy burdens on Victoria’s firefighters. The Country Fire Authority (CFA) has lost nearly 2,000 volunteers since the Black Summer bushfires, and many rural CFA brigades are ageing as young people move to urban areas for work and study. Additionally, as climate change causes bushfire seasons around the world to overlap, we may not be able to draw on external firefighting support as we have in the past for the ‘surge capacity’ needed during large bushfires.
It is clear that to tackle the climate-fuelled bushfire seasons of the 21st century, Victoria needs to strengthen its firefighting capacity by unlocking new sources of volunteers within the state.
We call on the Victorian government to create a volunteer remote area firefighting team (RAFT) that Victorians living in urban areas could join.
Victoria’s urban areas are full of people who love the bush, and who would rise to the opportunity to help defend the places they love from bushfires.
Allowing urban Victorians to be trained and deployed as firefighters at times of urgent need would be a smart response to the reality of longer, more intense bushfire seasons. It would:
- Be an innovative way of strengthening firefighting capacity that would bring a younger, greater diversity of people into the CFA.
- Increase firefighting capacity at a low cost to the state.
- Allow urban-based people who love wild places to play a practical role in protecting them from bushfires.
- Contain fires before that can destroy huge areas of biodiversity-rich bush. In bad fire seasons we often have to prioritise firefighting efforts to protect private property before public land, and a team dedicated to remote areas would help ensure that the places we love can be protected.
- Provide backup for Forest Fire Management Victoria remote area teams (which should also continue to be expanded).
- Catch Victoria up with other states that have RAFTs (NSW, Tasmania, ACT & QLD)
- Lessen the burden on existing rural fire brigades over summer. All Victorians benefit from volunteer firefighting, but the burden is not shared between urban and regional people.
The Victorian government’s new ten-year Bushfire Management Strategy states that the goal of increasing firefighter capacity is at its forefront. With the strategy in draft form, the government has the opportunity to make this innovative idea a reality.
To sign your organisation onto this open letter, please email:
Anna Langford (Friends of the Earth Act on Climate campaign coordinator)
Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance
Friends of Mt Stirling
Victorian National Parks Association
For Wild Places
Protect Our Winters
Melbourne Uni Mountaineering Club
Goongerah Environment Centre (GECO)
Bushfire Survivors for Climate Action