Pressure mounts to fund better masks for RFS volunteers

Pressure mounts to fund better masks for RFS volunteers
A coalition of firefighters campaigning for more protective masks have finally secured a meeting with NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott.
The Firefighter Cancer Coalition, led by active firefighter Brett Carle, has been calling for more stringent breathing apparatus for volunteer firefighters.
Currently, RFS volunteers have only been issued with paper masks, with some members spending up to $500 of their own money to purchase more protective masks.
NSW Rural Fire Service volunteer watches on as a fire burns with a cloth covering his mouth. (AAP)
Today Mr Carle met with the Shadow Emergency Services Minister to present a petition with more than 180,000 signatures calling for adequate practical respiratory protection.
"P2 masks that are provided are grossly inadequate for the mitigation of the hazards that bushfire smoke causes," the petition reads.
"Where self-contained breathing apparatus is available it provides only a limited short term working time-frame that doesn't align with the protracted nature of large bushfire incidents.
"Appropriate, higher level respiratory protection needs to be funded and supplied to firefighters immediately."
Finn Burns navigates a boat through thick smoke at Mallacoota, as fire advanced on the seaside Victorian town on December 31, 2019. (Supplied)
After meeting with the concerned firefighters Mr Elliott said he would wait for a recommendation from the Rural Fire Service before funding the masks.
In December the president of NSW's Volunteer Fire Fighters Association told 9News that members on the firegrounds were becoming concerned about the dangers of bushfire smoke.
"Firefighters are out there often breathing smoke that isn't good for your health," he said.
"We know that there are carcinogens in the smoke. We know levels of carbon monoxide and other poisons are in the smoke.
"And if volunteers are raising concerns saying they believe the respiratory protection they are given isn't adequate we at least should listen to them."