Joe Arena, Treasurer at the Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade, has asked the Central Coast to dig deep to help fund vital fire fighting masks for the brigade.
Arena made a public plea via social media on Tuesday (December 11), asking for financial support so that the brigade could purchase adequate facemasks to protect their lungs while members are protecting the public.
“The Brigade has been manning three trucks on rotating shifts for the last two weeks to fight the Hawkesbury and Central Coast sections of the mega fire (fused Three Mile and Gospers Mountain fires), while also sending members north over the last three months, ” Arena said.
“Our brigade has been desperately trying to protect homes and property, completely exhausted, and I’m horrified to say that they have been using RFS issued dust masks to protect their airways.
“In defence of the RFS, these are unprecedented conditions on a scale no one could have anticipated, but we have no choice but to go out and fight fires with what we have.
“My Brigade is currently fundraising so that we can purchase and maintain P3 masks, similar to Promask Twin Full Face Respirator Readypaks for eight members, ” Arena said.
The respirators cost around $140, not including certification costs. Since making the appeal, the Central Coast community has rallied, with Arena confirming the Brigade had raised so much money in the 24 hours since it went live that it now has enough funds to purchase respirators for other local brigades. “We would like to thank everyone who supported our appeal for the purchase of face masks for our firefighters.
“We are humbled by the generosity of the community, and we have achieved our original objective and will use any excess funds to purchase masks for neighbouring brigades, ” Arena said. Since news broke that firefighters were relying on P2 grade masks the public has criticised the State Government and the NSW RFS for not ensuring volunteer firefighters were adequately equipped.
The NSW RFS has since come out and said P2 masks were actually safer to use in these intense conditions and stated P3 masks actually made it harder to breath will fighting fires.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the RFS said any local brigades who feel they aren’t adequately equipped should contact their district body to discuss.
“NSW RFS firefighters are provided all necessary tools and equipment to undertake their work. “This includes all personal protective equipment, fire appliances and associated hoses, nozzles, etc, ” they said.
Source: Website, Dec 10 Joe Arena, Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade Media statement, Dec 12 NSW RFS Media Unit