FIRE CHAOS: ‘Are they saying we’re all paedophiles’
BUSH fire brigade bosses have been ordered to sack more than 8500 brave firefighters for refusing to get Blue Cards.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Service (QFES) has revealed that only 58 per cent of volunteers have applied for a "working with children'' check, despite the January 1 deadline being extended to the end of this month.
"Those who choose not to obtain a Blue Card will be choosing not to continue their role with QFES,'' a spokesman told The Sunday Mail yesterday.
The QFES has issued brigades with eight pages of instructions to make volunteers apply for Blue Cards - and sack them if they refuse to do so.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said nearly 20,000 QFES staff and volunteers had applied for Blue Cards.
He said 60 were rejected - "powerful evidence of the need for a Blue Card".
Blue Cards are denied to people convicted of serious offences including child abuse, rape, murder, burglary or selling drugs.
Mr Crawford said there was no intention to extend the deadline beyond March 31.
"QFES staff and volunteers attend to many situations where children can be present, including community evacuations, road crash rescues, field days and other community events,'' he said.
"People as young as 16 can also volunteer.''
Rural Fire Brigades Association general manager Justin Choveaux yesterday said 8578 staff and volunteers had yet to apply for a Blue Card.
He warned that rural communities will lose thousands of firefighters to defend their homes from bushfires this year.
"Many long-serving brigade members have resigned after multiple letters and phone calls from QFES,'' Mr Choveaux said.
"Let's make children safe, but let's also make communities safe by not losing their volunteer fire brigades.''
Will Giumelli, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 40 years, launched a petition signed by 1179 firies objecting to the Blue Card red tape.
He said firefighters took "great offence'' to the QFES telling volunteers they needed Blue Cards to keep kids safe.
"Are they saying we're all bloody paedophiles?'' he told The Sunday Mail.