Increasing fires mean more firefighters putting their lives on the line – it is time the Victorian government treated Forest Industry Fire Brigades equally
New research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that firefighting is a cancer-causing profession. This is further evidence that not only are we dealing with more frequent bushfires. There is also increased risk to those fighting the fires, Deb Kerr, CEO of the Victorian Forest Products Association (VFPA), said today.
“Rightly, the Victorian Parliament has recognised that firefighters suffer higher rates of some cancers than the broader community, supporting and passing legislation to provide government-employed firefights presumptive rights – but not for forestry industry firefighters,” Ms Kerr said.
“We call on the Victorian Parliament to support our Forest Industry Fire Brigades. These firefighters put their life and welfare on the line to defend people, communities, wildlife, our built environment, and our forests from bushfires. Yet they do not have the same presumptive rights as their government-employed colleagues when it comes to developing cancer. In fact, they are the only firefighters in Victoria that the government has excluded.
The short- and long-term risks are the same for every firefighter – their treatment by the government is not. In Victoria, 800 people employed in the forestry sector are members of a Forest Industry Brigade under the Country Fire Authority. These men and women protect our state during bushfire season alongside other firefighters – volunteers and professionals.
“The WHO research once again highlights a shocking disregard by the government for these firefighters who have served their communities well. Whether you support the forestry sector or not, human lives should always come first. During every bushfire, these men and women stand shoulder to shoulder with other firefighters,” Ms Kerr continued.
“Our Forestry Industry Brigades are proud to protect their communities when the worst comes to pass. But health risks to the individual are the same, regardless of the uniform you wear,” Ms Kerr concluded.