20,000 Fewer CFA Fighters Since Ash Wednesday
My opinion is that given the urban sprawl that is turning what was once rural hamlets into densely populated residential/commercial/industrial areas, governments can no longer rely on Unpaid Volunteers to provide a Fire Fighting Service to such areas.
Here is an example from Australia.
Bring On Retained Firefighters
You are right about declining volunteers, many employers are demanding greater commitment from employees thus making it harder to have spare time to commit to fire fighting or even volunteerism, What I see as a way of securing more commitment from volunteers is a two part stragedy.
1. Once a fire is declared a event of duration (the Federal Government provide any sort of assistance) the fire fighters deployed to that fire should be provided with a daily allowance to help offset costs such as lost income from employment, not a covering of thier total loss but a allowance of say $100 per day tax free. This would not be paid for all responses but only significant events that have a longer duration.
2. As there is such a higher level of commitment required these days with the extra training etc, provide a incentive to train, that incentive can be perhaps a free vehicle registration per volunteer who meets a minimum commitment of training each year. This would cost the State Government about $500 per Volunteer on a annual basis and encourage greater volunteerism.