Fire hero out of pocket after $250k bulldozer destroyed
A DEEPWATER business owner who lost his house, his honey business, and his bulldozer in an intense bushfire last November is waiting for insurance that he says should be covered by the Queensland Fire and Emergency Service's insurer.
George Spiteri was fortunate to escape with his life while clearing firebreaks with his bulldozer during the inferno fire that roared through Deepwater and Baffle Creek.
But his bulldozer worth about $250,000 was destroyed.
Mr Spiteri assumed the QFES would cover the equipment under its insurance policy, yet after nine months he is waiting for the funds to come through.
He said he took on another loan for a bulldozer to cover his business, which added to his financial strain.
Mr Spiteri said it should not take so long for the insurance company to determine his bulldozer's worth, considering he could find out its value online within 10 minutes.
"I don't know what to do, they're adding to the pain of what has happened to me," he said. "I'm trying to recover after having lost everything and the only thing I can get any compensation for is this bulldozer and loss of income."
Burnett State MP Stephen Bennett criticised the lack of support while speaking on behalf of Mr Spiteri in the Queensland Parliament on Thursday.
Mr Bennett said the delays were a disincentive for local volunteers and businesses wanting to protect rural communities from fires, considering that Mr Spiteri has lost a lot of money from taking on further contracts.
"George assumed that QFES would cover his losses with their insurance policy," Mr Bennett said in parliament.
"This would seem like a reasonable expectation.
"George Spiteri didn't think twice when asked to help the firefighters and was out in the field as fast as he could.
"He believed the QFES would be just as speedy to respond as he had."
Mr Bennett said it was important that local volunteers helping in emergency situations with their own machinery knew that they would be fairly compensated.
"We need our local volunteers and businesses to respond quickly to an emergency, and they do," he said.