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8 January 2020

Firefighter compensation government sham and red-tape debacle

Only a very few volunteer firefighters or SES members are likely to be eligible for the compensation package promised by the Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. 

The promise was that if the volunteer spent 10 days or more on the fire line or in direct support of those on the fire line, then they could be eligible for up to $300 per day, capped at $6,000. The details of the compensation package were revealed yesterday and on investigation the Fassifern Guardian has found that the reality falls far short of the expectations raised by the promises.

  • The expectation was that the volunteer could claim for the first 10 days on the fire line and any days thereafter.

WRONG.

The first 10 days makes the volunteer eligible, but those first 10 days cannot be claimed, only day 11 onwards can be claimed.

  • The expectation was that the volunteer could claim $300 per day.
WRONG.

The volunteer can only claim their normal working day wage, after tax.

  • The expectation was that the volunteer could claim for the day they spent on the fire line.
WRONG.

If the volunteer’s normal working day was 8.00am to 5.00pm and they spent from 6.00pm to 10.00am fighting fires or directly supporting those fighting fires and then turned up for work, then they can only claim the two hours out of their normal working day - 8.00am to 10.00am.

If the volunteer did a deal with their boss and worked out of hours to make up for the time they were away from work, then they cannot claim compensation.

If the volunteer was retired and does not have a ‘working day’ then they too are not eligible to claim compensation.

In announcement on the Liberal party website it was posted: "The Prime Minister says this will include farmers, small business owners, tradies and contract workers in rural and regional areas who have been hit especially hard by this fire season."

But if the volunteer is a primary producer and cannot prove that they lost income by being away from their property to fight the fires, then they too are not eligible to claim compensation. The Fassifern is experiencing the worst drought on record, many are not planting crops due to lack of water; many have had to sell the majority or all of their herd due to lack of feed and water and many simply do not have an income - and so they too will not be eligible to claim compensation.

  • The expectation was that the compensation would be a fair and equitable process and that all volunteers could claim for the 10 days or more they spent on the fire line.

WRONG.

If the volunteer was a part time or casual worker and fought the fires on days they would not normally be working, then they cannot claim for those days.

If the volunteer undertook a full working day and then spent much of the night on the fire line before turning up to work the next day, they cannot claim for any of those hours on the fireline.

If the volunteer did not fight on the fire line and undertook, for example, the role of getting out of bed as soon as one or more of the trucks returned to the fire shed to undertake maintenance - check the engines, clean the filters, top up the fuel tanks and the water tanks so the firies could take a break before returning to the fire line and the support worker did this before turning up to their normal place of work - they are not eligible to claim compensation.

OPINION:
The Fassifern Guardian contends that there is a huge difference between the expectations raised by the promises made by the Prime Minister and the Premier and the reality.

The promises were made long before the details of the eligibility criteria were revealed and won front page headlines.

Perhaps those who designed the eligibility criteria should have first spent a 12 to 18 hour day on the fire line - as many of our firefighters did on the 74 days of fire in the Fassifern - then perhaps they would not equate a normal working day with the horror, the sweat, the heat, the physical and mental hardship and the danger of fighting or mopping up after a wildfire.

The promise
Eligibility criteria: 10 days or more volunteering as a Rural Fire Brigade member fighting fire

Compensation: $300 per day up to a maximum of $6,000

The reality in Queensland
Eligibility criteria:

  • Volunteer becomes eligible to claim for days on the fire line after fighting fires for 10 days - cannot claim for first 10 days, can only claim for days after the first 10
  • Can only claim for those hours fighting the fires within normal working hours e.g. if a firefighter fought fire for 18 hours on one day and only 4 of the 18 hours were within the volunteer’s normal working day, then can only claim for those 4 hours
  • If a firefighter made up the hours away from work by working at night or on the weekend, or received payment from their employer, then cannot claim those hours
  • Must prove loss of income

Compensation:

  • Volunteer can only claim a daily rate commensurate with their normal daily wage, after tax, up to a maximum of $300
  • If a volunteer works part time and they fought a fire on days that they do not normally work, then they cannot claim for those days
  • If a volunteer is retired, then they cannot claim any days
  • If a volunteer is a primary producer then they must be able to prove that if they had stayed home on the days they fought the fire, they would have made money
Source

5 January 2020

Surviving an Australian Hell

This was the view of the firestorm from
inside the truck. The Markham's had to
battle this red hell with minimal
protective clothing.
A man trapped inside firestorm describes harrowing battle

"The flames were 40 metres tall, it sucked all the oxygen out of the air… at one point we lost my dad and brother around the other side of the house and I thought for sure they were dead. It was terrifying."

Sam Markham, a landscape photographer, has described in detail the harrowing day his family nearly lost everything. With minimal protective gear, and fire hoses left over from his uncle's firefighting days, the family fought to save their lives and NSW home from inside a firestorm on the south coast on New Year's Eve.

The fire was the same blaze a Fire and Rescue NSW crew were filmed battling their way through in Parma, near Nowra, four days ago. The crew had knocked on the family's door before getting stuck in the inferno at the family's front gate.

"I've lived on the south coast all my life and I've never seen or felt anything like it," Mr Markham told 9news.com.au.

The 22-year-old said he had been monitoring the fire front online all day. His mother, father, sister, brother, and three friends were at their house waiting for word on what to do next.

It was at 2pm a surreal humming started. What unfolded over the next hour was something out of a nightmare.

"It sounded like nothing you could imagine, this humming noise… like jet engines, that was the fire," he said.

"At 2.30pm we had the fire crew knock on the door saying, 'it's going to come straight for you, if the southerly hits, there's not much we can do for you.' "Two of the trucks went down the road, one of them was the truck that got stuck.

"In the next thirty minutes it slowly got darker and darker, my dad used to be in fuel haulage, so we put on fire-retardant shirts, we looked like a little fire crew.

"Then over the next five minutes it just went pitch black, like someone had turned the lights out. This was around 3pm. You could not see anything. We're all standing there, and then the embers started to drop.

"We were putting them out, but it was doing nothing – they started to drop, and drop, and drop. It went quiet, the easterly stopped, you could hear a pin drop, then 10 seconds later, didn't have time to think, it was like someone had opened the oven door and turned the fan on. That was the southerly," Mr Markham said.

The fierce southerly sent 40-metre-high flames roaring up the gully towards the property. The winds and heat were so intense that it sucked every bit of oxygen out of the air.

"I felt the back of my hands start to melt to the back of the hose… I dropped everything and ran to the left-hand side of the house and pinned myself up against the roller door and the fire sucked all the oxygen out of the air. You'd try to breathe and you'd realise, 'wait I didn't get anything', and you'd try again, and you still weren't getting anything," he said. 

Mr Markham located his mother, an asthma sufferer, on the other side of the house and quickly took her inside, a safe refuge, which had formed an air pocket.

At that point everyone but Mr Markham's brother and father were inside the house, so he once again ventured into the inferno in search of them.

"I found my father up against a shipping container. He had turned the hose on himself, he couldn't breathe… he was trying to put some protection between him and the fire. It was probably just panic," he said. 

"The worst of it, the lack of oxygen, lasted while we were in the house for those two or so minutes."

By some miracle the family and their home came out unscathed. But there was a moment Mr Markham thought they wouldn't make it.
"To be honest when I ran around the side of my house, the heat of this thing…I thought 'nup.' There was a moment there I thought we were all dead. If I didn't run, it probably would have cooked us alive." he said.

Mr Markham and his family are just a few of the Australians caught up in a bushfire crisis which is devastating the south coast of NSW. 

Thousands of people have today continued their exodus from the south coast, after an evacuation order was sent to the fire-hit holiday hotspot ahead of catastrophic conditions developing over the weekend.

The NSW government has declared a third state of emergency of the bushfire season ahead of the re-elevated fire risk over the weekend, but Mr Markham said his family won't leave.

"Everything is burnt to a crisp within 10 kms of us – it could come back, but I figure we're pretty safe now."

Mr Markham took this photo approximately 20 minutes after the main fire front had passed. He said the ground was glowing. (Instagram / sam_markham_)

2 January 2020

True Story of Trust NSW


Do not live your life in worry and strife. Learn to Trust. Here is a true story of Courage and Faith from rural Australia.

Farm husbands in those days worked away wherever they could find employment. Gone for a week or more; up to a month working away from home. Mothers were left on the farm with their many children. 

This day grandmother took the horse and sulky to the next town 45 miles away for supplies, the older children left at home minding the younger children. There were nine of them. 

Dark came early that day with lots of rain and bad weather. Torrents of water everywhere. Grandmother made it home to the edge of the creek, she could not see ahead, she could not see how much water was flooding across the road; she could hear the water but could not see it, she could not guess how deep it was, whether it was safe to cross. Grandmother did not want to be washed downstream in the rapidly rising flash floodwaters. 

What to do? It was dark, she had been gone all day, she needed to get home. 

Waiting with the horse and sulky at the edge of the creek listening to the floodwaters gushing past Grandmother didn't know what decision to make. She decided she had to trust, she had to put her faith in something beyond herself. 

She asked our Father in Heaven for help to get home. She didn't know what to ask for precisely.  She just trusted. 


Suddenly the lightning flashed. The horse entered the floodwater. Great flashes of light sparkled across the sky and lit the countryside. The horse pushed deeper into the creek. Grandmother didn't have a choice. It was too late to turn back. 

And that was the miracle. That was the answer to her prayer. The lightning did not stop flashing until she was safely on the opposite side of the creek. The whole event floodlit by magnificent nature. 

What made the horse enter the water at exactly the same moment as the sky lit up? It was The Hand and it's perfect timing. A miracle in action. 

Once across the floodwater Grandmother told us the "dear little horse" trotted on home in the dark, without fear of the violent lightning strikes crashing all about, and she was delivered safely to her waiting children. 

The moral of this true story is to just Trust and let go. Magic is always at work when you give your life to the Heavenly Father.
- Suzanne Nagel NSW