BUENOS AIRES – Some 200 volunteer firefighters gathered on Thursday outside Congress to protest the severe underfunding to the nation’s 1,000 fire stations since 2017.
“We are basically demanding that the national government heed the law,” Carlos Alfonso, president of the Volunteer Firefighters Federations Council, told EFE.
The demonstrators are demanding a payment corresponding to part of the budget allocated for 2017 – which amounts to as much as 147 million pesos ($5.25 million) – as well as the total amount allotted for 2018, equivalent to some 614 million pesos ($22.23 million), Alfonso said.
The shortfall means a decreased capacity for “ongoing training for the some 43,000 firefighters,” as well as cutback in equipment and personal protection gear, he added.
The protestors, all of them in full firefighting gear, said that the missing funding is not intended to pay their salaries, as they work on a volunteer basis, but to allow them to do their jobs.
Carolina Flandes, who works at the main fire station in the southern city of Bariloche, told EFE that the volunteers have a type of health insurance that only treats injuries resulting from accidents, but fails to tend to day-to-day minor lesions.
“What we are asking with this law is for the firefighter to have a right to healthcare,” she said. “We are asking for healthcare, we are asking for a law that protects them.