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Salvos volunteers Neal Griffiths and Heather Donaldson. Photo: Justin Benson-Cooper

SALVATION Army volunteers made almost 5200 of meals during last month’s Boddington bushfire – but many were returned or never eaten. 


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Volunteers from Boddington and The Salvation Army have spoken out after The Sunday Times revealed last week that some firefighters worked up to 30 hours and were fed just a cheese sandwich.The vollies are upset because they say they were making the food – but it wasn’t always getting to the firefighters stuck in the blaze and unable to return to the operations centre.

They said meals would be sent out hours after being made only to be returned.

In one example, 350 dinner packs went out to the fire ground, and 250 were returned.

On another occasion, 500 meals went out and only about 100 were eaten.

The volunteers said the charity-run service had been pushed to the brink by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with little resources, funding or coordination.

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Volunteer Heather Donaldson, who has worked in the food truck for more than five years, said Boddington had been a disheartening experience.

“They rely on us more and more, and (they’re) not giving us anything to cope with it,” she said.

“We had two crews come in that hadn’t been fed for hours.”

DFES deputy commissioner for capability command, Steve Fewster, said any effort by volunteers was appreciated.

“Knowing the community are behind them gives firefighters a much needed morale boost,” he said.

“The Commissioner was one of the first to thank the communities of Northcliffe and Boddington for their generosity and spirit.

“We are committed to working with the Salvation Army and other catering providers to ensure that the right level of catering is provided.”

Mr Fewster said the Salvation Army was reimbursed “for the meals they prepare”.

He said the agreement between DFES and The Salvation Army required renewal this year and

“DFES is currently progressing with this process”.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said “there were always lessons to be learned” from fires, even those where property losses were minimal.

“As is standard practice, there will be a major incident review of the Boddington bushfire which will cover all aspects of the firefighting operation,” he said.

“I’d encourage those who attended the fire to provide feedback if they identified areas for improvement. If changes and improvements are recommended, they will be considered.”

Opposition emergency services spokeswoman Margaret Quirk said she had heard of several welfare concerns from the Boddington fire and hoped it would all come out during the review.

“Salvation Army volunteers shouldn’t be exploited, it really is testing their good will,” she said.

BY THE NUMBERS: INCREASED PRESSURE ON SALVOS CATERING

February 2014
Hours 795
Volunteers 150
Drinks 6850
Meals 440

February 2015
Hours 1978.5
Volunteers 308
Drinks 46,900
Meals 9917

KAITLYN OFFER | PerthNow | March 16, 2015 10:11AM

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