At a recent Brigade meeting questions were asked about RFS members turning out in their own cars, and where they stand. My correspondent says:
We are aware that there is no special provisions that permit them to break the road rules, but would they (personally) and their car (property) be covered by insurance from the time they get the call (I.e. they leave their home).
Would this be covered in any of your existing articles (I have read most, but may have missed it), or is this a question that would need to be asked of the Service?
Another questionable component is “if the road is closed to the public at a certain point (as a result of the bushfire) and the staging area / assembly point is up that road – would there be any legal issues with the member using their private car to get from the road closed point and the assembly point?”.
Compensation for Rural Fire Service volunteers is governed by the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW). This Act applies if a volunteer firefighter is injured during a ‘relevant journey’ (s 7). The Act also provides for compensation for damage to the personal property of a firefighter during a relevant journey or whilst fighting a fire (s 12; in particular s 12(2)(c)).
A journey is a relevant journey (s 9) if:
(a) it is a journey between the place of abode or place of employment of the fire fighter, or place from which the fire fighter was called, and a bush fire, and
(b) it is made exclusively and genuinely for the purpose of engaging in fighting a bush fire.
The answer to the first question is that NSW RFS firefighters are covered by the provisions of the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW) from the time they get the call and head off either to the shed or to the fire.
As for the second question I cannot see any legal issues arising from a firefighter ‘using their private car to get from the road closed point and the assembly point’. To a certain extent that may depend on how the road is closed; if the road closure point is staffed by a police officer and the police officer directs the fire fighter not to pass the road closure point then it may be an offence to ignore that direction. Short of that I can’t imagine what legal issues are thought might arise.
If a volunteer has accepted a pre arranged shift on a fire appliance is that the same as discussed in your about article?
Also the Act specifies a bushfire, not just any emergency such as structure fire, spillage or MVA. How does that effect the cover?
Shane, I don’t understand your question about ‘a pre arranged shift on a fire appliance’.
For the purposes of the Workers Compensation (Bush Fire, Emergency and Rescue Services) Act 1987 (NSW) bush fire means ‘a bush or grass fire or a fire in or at any building or a fire of any kind at which a rural fire brigade or fire fighter operates or is in attendance for the purpose of its control or suppression’. If they are providing fire protection at ‘structure fire, spillage or MVA’ it is still a bush fire for the purposes of the Act.