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Volunteer Fire Fighters reject calls for "one single fire service"

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

The New South Wales Rural Fire Service Association (RFSA) strongly opposes any plans to establish a single fire-fighting agency and any attempt to affect the volunteer culture of the NSW Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) through union influence as witnessed in Victoria.


RFSA President Ken Middleton said any attempts to create one fire service in New South Wales would significantly undermine the ability to provide ongoing fire protection to rural communities across the State.


“Under existing co-operative fire-fighting arrangements, there are clearly stated protocols in place for response to incidents within the urban rural interface,” Mr Middleton said.


“These protocols have the agreement of both the NSW RFS and Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW).


“In addition The Fire Services Joint Standing Committee (FSJSC) is a Statutory Committee that comprises representatives from the NSW RFS, FRNSW, the RFSA and the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU).


“Through the FSJSC there are specific procedures in place regarding response to incidents within the urban rural interface.  Given the joint participation of related fire management agencies and member representatives it is now difficult to understand the push for a single agency.


“Whilst the RFSA supports the announcements of a referral to the Coroner and an independent review, it is adamant that the formation of a single agency would erode volunteer culture and commitment, thereby jeopardising property protection throughout New South Wales.


“This would also lead to a breakdown of local community relationships and support as well as increasing the cost to Government and ultimately the community.


“Our members serve in the world’s largest volunteer fire fighting agency – covering a massive distance from suburban Sydney to the most remote bushland parts of the state.


“They are locals who drop everything during an emergency to assist their communities, saving lives and homes during fire disasters.


“They are some of the most highly skilled and highly trained volunteers in the world, and their efforts are remarkably valuable. In fact, a 2011 report by Deloitte found volunteers provide services to the people of New South Wales and the State Government to the value of $1.3 billion each year


“We all know why we need volunteers – New South Wales is a huge state with remote and difficult to access bushland areas.


“While we work well alongside FRNSW on a daily basis, we are not the same organisation. Our vehicles, equipment, safety gear, operations and the demands we face are significantly different.


“Combining the fire fighting agencies into one single agency would not be practical. Volunteers are from local areas, they make the decisions on the ground because they know the terrain and conditions better than anyone.


“Our volunteers do an amazing job protecting the people of New South Wales. It’s a job they love and volunteer their time to do.


“The RFSA will fight any plans for a ‘single fire service’ and, having heard from members across the state, they too will robustly oppose any plan to change the current system which has a proven record of saving lives.”