SAFETY CONCERNS: Southern Downs firefighters agree the P2 masks are not equipped for this deadly fire season.
SAFETY CONCERNS: Southern Downs firefighters agree the P2 masks are not equipped for this deadly fire season.

Fireys forced to buy own equipment amid safety concerns

THEY may be our region's lifesavers but Southern Downs rural firefighters have been left to their own devices when it comes to finding proper protective equipment.

In light of NSW RFS being warned not to crowd-fund without the "appropriate authorities" for better protective masks, firefighters in our backyard have stepped up to talk about inadequate protective clothing offered by the Queensland Government.

The Glen first officer John Skinner said he had been campaigning for better protective masks for eight years.

According to Mr Skinner, current P2 masks often don't seal properly or let in smoke particles on those who have beards.

With 2019's deadly season showing no sign of slowing, Mr Skinner is worried these shortcomings in the masks could put volunteers in harm's way.

"I think it will have a long-term effect on some firefighters, especially if they're fighting fires regularly," he said.

"Personally, I have been in a few fires surrounded by smoke and it can get down your throat and get you coughing quite a bit.

"At the moment we have to leave firefighters with asthma or other breathing difficulties in the truck or away from fires to protect them."

Mr Skinner said in the past his crew had even been forced to buy their own masks out of their own pockets.

With Queensland RFS in the midst of rolling out new masks to brigades, Mr Skinner admitted funding for the service was far better than it was a decade ago but he said he still believed more should have been done sooner.

"We should have had better masks a long time ago but in government nothing happens overnight, it's a very slow process," he said.

Southern Downs firefighters also had qualms about follow-up comments from Prime Minister Scott Morrison that social media fundraising was spreading "misinformation".

Massie and District Fire Brigade fourth officer Ben Roger said a combination of social media and fundraising kept his brigade functioning.



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