Despite there being no large public ceremony this year, the peak body for Western Australia’s 20,000 registered Bush Fire Volunteers says International Firefighters’ Day 2020 will go down in history as happening in a year that was a critical turning point for the State’s emergency services.

Bushfire Volunteers President Dave Gossage AFSM, who accompanied the organisation’s Secretary Lorraine Webster to lay a wreath in memory of fallen volunteer firefighters today at the State’s firefighter memorial, said the combination of COVID-19, the National Royal Commission into bushfires and the impending State Election will inevitably change the future for many emergency service volunteers.

“May 4 is an important day every year for thousands of both volunteer and career (paid) firefighters and their families,” the volunteer of more than 40 years’ experience said.

“It brings a tear to the eyes of many of us who have lost invaluable colleagues, friends and family members over the years.”

“For our amazing extended family of essential service volunteers, remembering those who have been injured or taken in the line of duty is also often a strong part of the motivation that drives us to step up.”

“One of the strengths of WA’s ‘local control, local ownership, local outcomes’ model of volunteer emergency services is that many who choose to serve do so primarily to support their local community. When a Bush Fire Volunteer suffers, a whole community – their friends, neighbours and kindred spirits from afar – inevitably step up their resolve to support and protect.”

Mr Gossage said this year will be especially trying for many of Australia’s emergency service volunteers.

“The catastrophic fires over summer were traumatising for those directly involved and as a result of the understandable political focus it drew, will have significant consequences for our teams for years to come. COVID-19 has created many direct and indirect challenges for volunteers who have been required to continue to turn out to incidents but without the capacity to meet and train together.”

“And in WA, we also expect the government’s plan to merge the volunteer Bush Fire legislation with that of the other volunteer and career services will soon become another point of stress for our members.”

“Fortunately, our association has taken the advice of the Department to develop non-government income in the hope of providing more direct support for our members during this testing time with some success, but remain relatively under resourced to support 20,000 volunteers in the challenging times ahead for all.”

“We’ve already announced plans to hold an annual regional Bushfire Volunteers conference and launched our game-changing app for all essential service volunteers (neither of which have yet to be supported by government) and will continue to do our very best to support our invaluable members,” Mr Gossage said.