Australia After years of rivalry between government departments or between career firefighters and volunteers, WA has a new headache dysfunction among the vollies themselves.
The three volunteer organisations responding to bushfires each have different positions on WAs proposed rural service, which have spilled over into public barbs.
The West Australian can reveal the biggest organisation, the Association of Volunteer Bushfire Brigades, is also facing internal criticism for being too political and not representative of the needs and wants of volunteers.
The AVBFB last week took aim at two smaller groups the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association and Emergency Services Volunteers Association over the key reform proposed in the report into Januarys Yarloop disaster.
The AVBFB has stridently called for a standalone rural bushfire service, arguing the Department of Fire and Emergency Services bullies volunteers and lacks rural expertise.
The stance is at odds with the ESVA and VFRSA, which want the new bushfire service to be a sub-department of DFES, albeit under different models.
The AVBFB claims coverage of 22,000 volunteers, the VFRSA 2700 and ESVA 1000.
Fridays weekly AVBFB bulletin inflamed tensions by claiming since the other two services were managed by DFES, it is not surprising theyd spruik the departmental position.
VFRSA executive officer Jodie Neuzerling said she was astonished at the attack, saying her members were trained and equipped by DFES but were all volunteers. ESVA president Merv Austic said it too was not there to toe the party line.
Ms Neuzerling said volunteers of all stripes needed to have a good working relationship given extreme forecasts for the upcoming bushfire season.
Our members went off, Ms Neuzerling said of the bulletin.
I was fielding emails and calls all day. Its disappointing because it feeds the discontent of members on both sides.
Its been ugly. We dont want punch-ups and name calling.
The AVBFBs criticism of fellow volunteers has also come under fire internally.
The West Australian has obtained an April letter from Chittering and Gosnells chief bushfire control officers Jamie ONeil and Rod Wallington to the AVBFB accusing it of driving personal agendas that create unnecessary division between agencies.
This has caused angst, tension and frustration from/to other combat services such as the career and volunteer FRS, DFES and other affiliated groups, wrote the officers, purportedly on the concerns of brigades in their north and south metropolitan districts.
AVBFB executive officer Tony Papafilis said the newsletter was not an attack but a statement of fact.
He said the AVBFB was committed to better bush fire management and respected the rights of other organisations to have different opinions.
Emergency Services Minister Joe Francis said: Whatever the colour of your uniform or truck, when push comes to shove the community doesnt care, they just want to be helped and every-one needs to work together.