Councillor Matthew Whitfield said he decided to act after Baldivis residents came to him concerned after a busy bushfire season.
But City of Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels has taken umbrage with Cr Whitfield’s petition, labelling it “confrontational” and saying it is not reflective of the views of the city.
“A strong and co-operative working relationship with DFES is far more effective in achieving good results than the use of confrontational approaches such as petitions and public campaigns,” he said.
“Cr Whitfield’s actions in this regard are not endorsed by the city and do not necessarily represent the city’s policy view on the matter.”
Baldivis is one of the busiest volunteer fire brigades in the state, with 70 members clocking up 1800 hours of firefighting in January.
Cr Whitfield said his first preference was to establish a career fire station in Baldivis, but acknowledged it might be unlikely.
“Baldivis has 31,000 people, eight schools, a large shopping centre, three service stations and a high bushfire-risk area and that should tick all the boxes for a career fire station,” he said.
“(But) I appreciate that state funds are tight and the commonsense solution is to provide the training and equipment to our volunteers for a fraction of the cost.”
Cr Whitfield said he was disappointed by the mayor’s position, but would not let it stop him. “It is a shame the mayor feels that petitions and public campaigns are confrontational, that is not a word I would have chosen to use,” he said.
“I joined the council to get good results for the community and there have been improvements to make in the fire service in Baldivis for years.
“The mayor can talk with DFES in committee meetings, but I for one do not want to hang around for another few years, waiting for action whilst a tragedy could be prevented.”
Cr Whitfield said the extra equipment and training he proposed would cost less than $300,000.
Baldivis resident Jacqueline Shaw said she was more than happy to sign the petition.
“We’ve got the man power, we’ve got the building; they really need the equipment and the training to allow them to be fully functional,” she said.
“They are such an asset to our community.”
Kim Dawes was another signatory who hoped to see the volunteers receive more help.
“This summer was one of the worst, we had massive fires … it is a big concern,” she said.
The Courier understands the brigade has made requests before to receive breathing apparatus, which would help it to more effectively deal with vehicle and structural fires.
Under the Emergency Services Levy, local government bushfire brigades are eligible to receive grants for operating costs and equipment purchases. This year, more than $32 million was available. Department of Fire and Emergency Services acting deputy commissioner Darren Klemm said the Baldivis Bush Fire Brigade was well equipped.
“Bush Fire Brigade volunteers are trained and resourced for their primary bush fire fighting role,” he said.
“The Baldivis area is well-serviced by career and volunteer fire fighters who are equipped with breathing apparatus to fight fires inside buildings.”
He said DFES was discussing a range of future options with the City of Rockingham.
To see the petition, click here.