NSW firefighters crowdfunding upgraded face masks amid claims RFS gear insufficient
Copacabana Rural Fire Brigade treasurer Joe Arena wrote on Facebook that they were fundraising to buy eight masks.
He said the crew was “completely exhausted” from battling the “mega-fire” blazing in the Hawkesbury and Central Coast over the past two weeks.
“In defence of the RFS, these are unprecedented conditions on a scale no one could have anticipated,” he wrote.
“But we have no choice but to go out and fight fire with what we have.”
It costs $135 to fit out each firefighter with a professional-quality respirator, and there are ongoing costs associated with certification.
The RFS said P2 masks are “certified and tested rigorously”.
An RFS spokesman said crews should raise their concerns with their district if they feel they do not have adequate supplies.
“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,” the spokesman said.
Within hours of the fundraising campaign, the Central Coast crew received enough money to buy respirators for themselves and neighbouring brigades.
Volunteer Fire Fighters Association president Mick Holton said RFS members are issued with standard P2 masks but he said the RFS “could do better” as many volunteers were buying their own masks equivalent to a P3.
The RFS said it would take a long time to change safety equipment protocols.
“For the service to consider changing any of its provided firefighting equipment and apparel would require a full and compressive scientific research and evaluation process,” it said.