‘Extraordinary season’: Volunteer fireys welcome $6K pay-out
TWO men who have battled through one of the Sunshine Coast's worst-ever bushfire seasons have welcomed the Prime Minister's compensation offer of up to $6000.
Rural Fire Service volunteers Daniel Sandeman, 33 of the Maleny RFS, and Mike Hancock, 72 of Noosa North Shore RFS, said they were driven by a desire to help their own and other communities, not by financial gain.
But both said they had seen this exceptionally-difficult bushfire season take a financial toll on some colleagues, particularly the self-employed or small-business workers.
"It is a very good gesture that the Prime Minister made … it's a good step forward, to acknowledge it is an extraordinary bushfire season," Mr Sandeman said.
"People are spending time away from friends and family at this time of year, Christmas and New Year's - and it doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon.
"It is a very good gesture and would be well received."
After weeks of debate about paying those on the front line, Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered $300 a day, capped at $6000, to New South Wales volunteer firefighters who worked for private business, and who had worked more than 10 days fighting fires this season. He invited other states and territories, including Queensland, to enter similar programs.
After some political toing and froing between the PM and Queensland Premier Annastacia Plasaczcuk, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford said the state would sign up to the deal. The Premier's office was contacted for comment.
Self-funded retiree Mr Hancock has volunteered with the RFS since 2001 as his "way to give back", and said he was not personally concerned by the compensation, but appreciated there were plenty who needed it.
Mr Hancock's and Mr Sandeman's comments came in the wake of tragic news RFS volunteer and expectant father Samuel McPaul, 28, was killed when his truck was lifted up by a "fire tornado" and rolled while fighting fires on the New South Wales-Victoria border on Monday night.
Mr Sandeman described the death as "absolutely tragic", and said no matter how prepared you were, "fire has its own mind and creates its own weather patterns".
"Nobody likes to see that happen to anybody," Mr Sandeman said. "At such a young age, and expecting a young child in a couple of months, it pulls at your heartstrings.
"My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends and the Rural Fire Service as a whole, it's one of those situations you don't want anyone to go through."
Mr Hancock said he felt "awful" for Mr McPaul and his wife, who was expecting their first child in May.