Firies demand unified service

Issue 

Four hundred fire service workers and supporters rallied in Melbourne on April 14 and submitted a report to the Royal Commission on the 2009 bushfires.

United Firefighters Union (UFU) secretary Peter Marshall said the minimum response time of 7.7 minutes for fires was under threat from the government's proposal to cut the minimum staffing level of 269 firefighters in the metro region.

Firefighters are calling for adequate staffing levels and a unified fire service for the entire state. Successive state governments have operated three services: the staffed Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB); the staff and volunteer–based Country Fire Authority (CFA) and the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Marshall said a recent fire at a primary school in Apollo Park could have been put out sooner by the MFB station nearby, but was directed to the CFA. A fire that could have been contained in one room resulted in property damage of more than $1 million because of artificial boundaries, he said.

Fire officer Mac Hanson said response times were critical to saving lives and property, and the government's proposals were placing the public and firefighters at risk.

All speakers stressed that the present system of bureaucratic boundaries between the MFB and the CFA prevented timely responses to outer-suburban fires.

The UFU submission was presented to the Royal Commission before the rally marched to the union's head office.