Farmers lodge 1,255 applications for firefighting equipment grants in less than a month

 

South Australian farmers and landholders are keen to get their hands on upgraded farm firefighting equipment, with the state government receiving 1,255 applications in less than a month.

The government has put $2 million towards upgrading on-farm firefighting and safety gear over four years.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs said he expected the program to be popular given farmers had been calling for it.

“This is all new equipment and new purchasing and we want to see this supporting local businesses out in our regions,” Mr Szakacs said.

The applications now have to be assessed, and everything from upgrading water tanks, farm firefighting units and safety items like fire blankets and fire shields has been applied for.

Farmers had raised concerns that the grant money, although welcome, could undermine funding for the Country Fire Service (CFS).

But Mr Szakacs said the funding was new money on top of the existing budget for the CFS.

“The most important thing that we can try and do is encourage people to join and participate in the CFS in their communities whilst also supporting front line assets like farm firefighting units,” Mr Szakacs said.

Given only $500,000 will be available for this year, farmers will have to wait to find out if they are successful.

Farmers embrace grants

Farm contractor Josh Deer and his wife Lucy lost their home in the 2019-20 bushfires on Kangaroo Island.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs and Kangaroo Island resident Josh Deer with a farm firefighting unit.(

 

Supplied: SA Government

)

Despite this, Mr Deer travelled around the island in the weeks after the major blaze, trying to help extinguish the remaining fires.

“We help in any way we can and it’s great to see the government helping us out,” Mr Deer said,

“Some days we travel 300-400 kilometres and, with the price of fuel, that adds up over a summer.

“Add to that the cost of hoses, pumps, attachments and tanks and you’re looking at several thousand dollars to set up a safe and reliable farm firefighting unit.”

Each year before the fire season starts, the CFS inspects the vehicles to ensure they are safe and well-equipped.

“Quite often we will be first on the scene because a fire may have started on a neighbour’s property and we can help put some water on the fire until the CFS trucks arrive,” Mr Deer said.

However, talkback caller Phil from Woodside in the Adelaide Hills was concerned about the lack of support for people who owned land but did not run it as a business.

“If you’ve got a hobby farm that you don’t run as a business you are not eligible … we get no help at all for firefighting,” he told the AT Country Hour.

“We can’t claim protective equipment, we can’t claim for a fire unit, we can’t claim for anything because we haven’t got it as a business. It puts us all at a great disadvantage.”

A blonde woman smiles at the camera in a garden.
Sabrina Davis decided to interview people on Kangaroo Island and post them on Facebook.(Supplied: Sabrina Davis)

Sabrina Davis from western Kangaroo Island became an advocate for farm fire fighting units after losing her house and farm in a bushfire on January 3, 2020.

She was concerned about the lack of fire safety equipment on farms so she founded the Humans of Kangaroo Island project in November 2020 to raise funds for it.

Through the campaign she raised about $70,000 that helped farmers, including those who fell through the gaps in funding, get protective clothing, firefighting equipment, fire blankets and UHF radio.

“I’m very happy to see the developments that are happening now, that there are more farmers who can access the grants and claim for further equipment because obviously we are very limited in the amount we raised and how many people we can help,” she said.


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