Volunteers are facing an early Christmas deadline to get vaccinated or be suspended from local bushfire brigades. The December 24 deadline, brought forward a week by the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River due to office closures, comes just as every able hand in the region was needed to fight the massive Calgardup bushfire. But the Shire is sticking to its guns despite confusion among some brigade members, with the new law governing mandatory vaccination for emergency personnel leaving a loophole in emergency situations. A volunteer, who could not be identified due to a Shire ban on speaking to the media, believed the new regulations could see up to 20 personnel suspended at a time where brigades were actively recruiting for more members. Section 8 of the new laws stipulates “nothing in these directions prevents a person who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 from entering any part of a fire in an emergency services site … (if) responding to an emergency where the emergency response is required to be provided immediately and a fully-vaccinated or partially vaccinated person is not available”. “A big incident is all hands on deck,” the volunteer said. “Any loss of volunteers is going to have a negative impact.” But Shire chief emergency services manager Adam Jasper said brigades would not entertain a two-tier system. “The Shire respects our members’ right to choice and privacy,” he said. “For those that do not wish to provide evidence of vaccination, the Shire will temporarily suspend these memberships. “This will prevent procedural action around required attendance at training, which as a result of the mandate members can no longer meet. This is not a disciplinary measure.” Mr Jasper did not believe the move would leave brigades short in case of major incidents like Calgardup. “The Shire has already received a significant number of certificates to evidence vaccination,” he told the Times. “We remain confident there is adequate resourcing to deliver an emergency response in line with community expectations once the mandate comes into effect later this month.” First responders would have to show proof of vaccination, and unvaccinated fireys would only be called in if no vaccinated volunteers showed up. Department of Fire and Emergency Services requirements for its volunteer brigades differed, with Wallcliffe and the Margaret River Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service members required to wear mask and practise distancing if unvaccinated. Another volunteer said it made no sense these requirements differed between DFES and the local government. “More fireys will want just switch to working under DFES, which is preferred anyway,” the member said. The WA Association of Volunteer Firefighters earlier voiced concerns around the new mandates which they believed would diminish regional volunteering.