A feeling of “how can I help?”, tweets from high-profile Australian and international celebrities and a promotional campaign is credited for a surge in people wanting to join fire brigades in Geraldton and the Mid West.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services reports a “massive increase in interest” in WA in response to the national bushfires crisis.
Local authorities believe the fires in November, which threatened the suburbs of Utakarra and Glenfield, also led to a positive reaction from the public.
The City of Greater Geraldton’s chief bushfire control officer Murray Smith said about 20 people had recently joined local brigades, with 13 new faces at a training day at Waggrakine on Sunday.
A day earlier, more than $20,000 was raised in a fundraiser for firefighters at the Wintersun Hotel.
“We presented the Australian Red Cross with a cheque for $22,487… it was so emotional,” event co-ordinator Lane Place said.
Both fire and rescue units and bushfire brigades have been swamped with inquiries.
“What’s happened in the east has made people stop, take stock and think what they can do to help,” Craig Smith, superintendent of the Mid West Gascoyne region of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services, said.
“People are interested in joining brigades . . . and we are more than interested in having them.
“That applies to both fire and rescue and bushfire brigades . . . and to all emergency services, including Volunteer Marine Rescue and the SES. And we don’t only want front-liners . . . we also need support people. Everybody has different skills.”
Tweets by actress Nicole Kidman and singer Pink — among other celebrities — about the bushfires included links to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services website.
“This has helped with the spike in interest,” Kathryn White, acting manager of Strategic Volunteer and Youth Programs with the DFES, said.
Visitor numbers to dfes.vol.org. au surged last weekend to about 4500. It usually attracts 500 a day.
“In November, we launched a Get Behind The Frontline campaign, which encourages people to join emergency services … with more than 10,000 people visiting the volunteer recruitment website in the first three weeks,” he said.