Australia's Volunteer Firefighting Numbers Have Taken A Hit
Australia's volunteer firefighting force has fallen to its lowest number in a decade, dropping almost 20 per cent after taking account of population growth.
In the 2018/19 financial year, there was 824 volunteers per 100,000 people, according to a Productivity Commission report released on Wednesday.
That's fallen 18.8 per cent since 2009/10 when there was 1015 volunteer firefighters and support staff for every 100,000 people.
While the rates have steadily declined over that period, overall numbers are also down after non-paid firefighter numbers peaked at 173,017 in 2012/13.
Overall, volunteer numbers including support staff peaked in 2015/16 at 226,509 before falling to a decade-low of 207,445 in the most recent financial year.
The paid firefighting workforce grew in the same period, but the rise isn't in line with the decline of volunteers.
There were almost 20,700 employees in fire services, including 15,223 tasked with battling blazes and the remainder support staff last financial year.
That's grown steadily from 17,278 in 2009/10 to from 20,297 in 2017/18 but only slightly year-to-year with the 2018/19 figure at 20,692.
The rates per 100,000 people were calculated using the estimated residential population of a financial year and from 2016 included Norfolk Island, which has a population of just over 2000.
The commission's report on government services also found the value of fire insurance claims fell below $1 billion last year to $978.6 million, the first decrease in a decade, after a peak of $1.325 billion in 2017/18.
The claims exclude major disasters in which the total claims exceed $100 million, meaning the current bushfire crisis is unlikely to cause a major spike in the next round of data.
Fire deaths continued on a downward trend to 3.5 people in every one million last financial year, the lowest rate since the first figure reported of 10.4 in 1989.
There were record amounts spent on fire services in 2018/19, with the $4.95 billion equating to $196.55 per person, up from $177.08 in the previous year.