NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) brigades are doubling their member numbers after recent catastrophic bushfire conditions prompted the Hastings community to take action.
King Creek Rural Fire Brigade near Wauchope have received at least 12 new applicants from the public in a fortnight, while Sancrox-Thrumster Rural Fire Brigade have received more than 100 applications in three weeks.
King Creek deputy captain Joanne Lonergan said the brigade is always look out for new members and need the support.
"Prior to these last fires we were struggling for membership," she said.
"In the last week or so we have actually had about 12 new applicants and that is a huge amount for our brigade. Some of them are rejoining and some are new members.
"We might get two or three applicants a year usually. You will see when there are significant fires and they are close to homes, people feel encouraged to come forward in an influx of membership.
"We currently have about 12 to 16 active firefighters so it will near on double our roster. We have also had people come in who don't want to be an operational firefighter and they can still be part of the brigade without going out on the truck.
"We're in a situation where even some of the seasoned firefighters are not prepared (for the ferocity of catastrophic conditions).
"The situation is so exceptional because we have been in such a dire drought and it has been early in the season with high temperatures. It's a once in a lifetime experience we are going through."
During the application process new members are given a police check by the NSW RFS membership services unit. The entire process can take between a month to six weeks to be assessed and qualified as a basic firefighter, according to deputy captain Lonergan.
Sancrox-Thrumster Rural Fire Brigade deputy captain Aaron Hall said the brigade receives a handful of applications a year and around 50 per cent complete the training.
"Usually we receive about five to 10 applications year but these serious events spruik interest for people to come and join," he said.
"We have had people from age 14 or 15 to 60 year olds, professionals and unemployed. Anyone can join.
"A lot of people can get turned off by the training before you jump on the end of a hose because it is a minimum six week process depending on how fast you are getting through it.
"At the moment we have around 20 to 30 active firefighters, about 50 on the books. The last few months have continuously strained our crew availability and the more we can get the better."
New recruits are paired with veterans during callouts to help bridge the firefighting experience gap during recent catastrophic conditions, according to Deputy Captain Hall.
"The trucks always go out with someone who is qualified in managing the crew of the truck," he said.
"So no matter if it's your first job and you're called out you will never be chucked in the deep end. You'll always be as safe as possible.
"I'd really encourage people to join the smaller brigades in their towns out west and get involved."
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