Firefighters in Uralla are responding to hundreds of 000 calls a year but only some of them are fire related.
When you call for an ambulance in Uralla, you would expect one is on its way - and you would be right.
But first on the scene will likely be the town’s Community First Responder unit, which in Uralla is Fire and Rescue.
The station has attended 139 calls this year but only 21 were fire or rescue related.
Its 16 retained firefighters are the communities first response to medical emergencies.
Station commander Rodney Hargrave is a 25 year veteran of the service and said when the station became the CFR ten years ago, it significantly increased their workload.
“Our biggest year that I can recall before 2006 was 75 call-outs and that was a massive, massive year for motor vehicle accidents,” he said.
In the past three years, the station attended an average of more than 300 calls per year.
The significant increase in call-outs has put pressure on both the current members and recruitment.
“It certainly has been a bit more stressful in terms of daytime availability because most of our members are still working in Armidale or in the district, rather than in town, commander Hargrave said.
Retained firefighter Kerri Hine has a nursing background and said the medical side was one of reasons she signed up eight years ago.
But for many, working as a CFR is a deterrent to joining the service.
“Getting blokes to join for firefighting is not that hard,” she said.
“[But] recruitment is very hard because they don’t want anything to do with the CFR.”
When a Uralla 000 call requires a medic, an ambulance is dispatched from Armidale or another nearby station.
Uralla Fire and Rescue is also dispatched as the CFR and will provide medical assistance until the ambulance arrives.
The usual response time for the Uralla CFR is between five and eight minutes and Mr Hargrave said it was usually about 20 minutes after that before the paramedics arrived.
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