Firefighters find it hard to fill ranks

A lack of shift workers due to job losses in the Illawarra's industrial sector has led to a decrease in the region's retained firefighters, according to Balgownie Fire and Rescue Station captain Greg Fredericks.

The station has no permanent firefighters and Capt Fredericks said that before the job losses, nearly all part-time staff members were shift workers.

"They were the people we would attract into the job because of that availability while off shift to respond during the daytime," he said.

Now in the midst of a recruitment drive, Capt Fredericks said he was beginning to notice a change in the background of the station's latest additions.

"The last recruit we've got, he works from home ... as a stockbroker," Capt Fredericks said.

"It's all computerised so he has plenty of time during the day to put back into the community."

While the majority of recruits continued to be shift workers and retirees, Capt Fredericks said retained firefighting could also be an option for stay-at-home mothers.

"That availability through daytime is there," he said.

But Capt Fredericks said retained firefighting wasn't for everyone and cautioned people against joining up if they were not interested in staying with the service for the long haul.

"We're looking for longevity of people's commitment," he said.

"It's more a community service.

"Because of the cost of training ... we're talking about quite an investment, and if it's only short term, we're not really getting the return."

Retained firefighters were required to visit schools to discuss fire safety and take part in training drills, as well traditional duties such as fighting house fires and attending motor vehicle crashes.

Helensburgh Fire Station is also seeking retained firefighters.

For more information, call the FRNSW Wollongong Zone Office on 4224 2000.

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