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NSW needs 1000 more firies, union says

A thousand more permanent professional firefighters are needed in NSW to help the state avoid the devastation of another Black Summer, a public service union says.

NSW firefighters and national parks rangers were left under-resourced and over-burdened by years of budget cuts as over five million hectares or almost seven per cent of the state burned, Public Service Association secretary Stewart Little says.

According to the PSA, the Rural Fire Service went into the catastrophic bushfire season with a fifth of its permanent roles unfilled because of budgetary pressures.

It says the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service, responsible for 75 per cent of the state’s hazard reduction, was also left unduly pressured by the depletion of its firefighting workforce by a third in less than a decade.

“The reduction to National Parks firefighting staff include remote area firefighters, who play the vital role of chasing remote lighting strikes before they spread out of control,” Mr Little said.

A royal commission into the last bushfire season has heard repeated evidence that the length and extreme conditions experienced stretched resources in impacted states and territories.

Firefighting teams were often forced to rely on support from interstate crews battling blazes in their own states as well.

The royal commission heard one South Australian volunteer spent only seven nights at home in five weeks, between interstate deployments and campaigns in his home state.

The PSA, which represents the professional staff of the Rural Fire Service as well as park rangers, says 1000 extra permanent firefighters are needed to help NSW hold its own during the next Black Summer.

“NSW will face another Black Summer, climate change guarantees this,” Mr Little said.

“Is it fair to keep relying on a temporary, unpaid workforce to be preparing and responding to these future catastrophes?”

The union is also calling for more aircraft and better equipment for front-line firefighters.

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