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CFS volunteer inquiries up after years of decline


South Australia’s Country Fire Service volunteer numbers have slowly declined every year since 2015 – but the CFS says the worrying trend has had no impact on firefighting capabilities and the nation’s bushfire crisis has prompted many new inquiries about joining up this season.

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New data provided to InDaily shows that the number of CFS volunteers in South Australia has fallen each of the past four years.

In July 2015, the CFS recorded 14,004 volunteers, including 10,848 firefighters, 2326 operational support personnel and 830 cadets.

By November 2019, the total number had fallen to 13,070.

The declining trend was mostly accounted for by the number of firefighters – which fell by a little over 600 over four years.

The number of operational support volunteers rose steadily between mid-2015 and 2017, but declined in subsequent years.

The number of volunteer cadets had been falling from mid-2015 but recovered from early 2018.

But the CFS says this bushfire season has prompted an influx of inquiries about joining its brigades.

According to a spokesperson, the CFS received 1622 inquiries between November 1 and December 31 last year.

A further 1545 inquiries were received through the CFS website, by phone and by email in the first ten days of this year.

By comparison, according to the spokesperson, the CFS received 154 inquiries during the final two months of 2017, a year in which there was no major bushfire event.

CFS Assistant Chief Rob Sandford told InDaily this morning that the volunteer service had maintained excellent firefighting capabilities despite the declining volunteer numbers trend.

There has been no impact whatsoever.

“It isn’t significant in the  overall numbers of firefighters that we’ve got across the state,” he said.

“The numbers haven’t impacted on our ability to respond … our numbers are strong.

“(There has been) no impact whatsoever.”

He said the South Australian CFS had been able to deploy more than 1000 firefighters to help fight bushfires interstate while also tackling devastating fires on Kangaroo Island and in the Adelaide Hills this season, and had plenty of capability.

Sandford said that although some brigades in certain areas of the state could do with extra volunteers, many were maintaining waiting lists because of the number of inquiries about joining.

He said it was encouraging to see so many people expressing interest in joining the CFS this year.

Sandford said the CFS had experienced jumps in inquiries following other major bushfire events in the past, such as the Sampson Flat bushfires in 2015, but that this year, brigades across the country were experiencing high numbers of new inquiries.

“I would encourage people to go along to their local CFS brigade and say ‘hello’ … just call in and say ‘g’day’ and have a chat, that’s the best way,” he said.

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