There has been some discussion (even in NSW) about the implications of setting up an independent fire service.
When you look back in time, at the way that the NSW RFS began, it seems to have gone full circle:
1. Neighbours pooling resources and working together to protect themselves and each other from the threat of fire.
2. A larger group of people working together as above but forming a brigade that is supported by local government.
3. A state based organisation working with local governments to support local brigades.
4. The state based organisation builds an empire that looses focus upon the reason they are their in the first place.
5. The state based organisation grows bigger with bureaucracy and over complication clouding their ability to properly serve those local brigades.
6. Local brigades get frustrated.
7. Experienced people often leave.
8. Neighbours consider pooling resources and working together to protect themselves and each other from the threat of fire.
The VFFA is deeply concerned at the current turmoil facing Volunteer fire fighters in the Victorian Country Fire Authority (CFA). Their 60,000 Volunteers are the backbone of the CFA, they contribute an enormous amount.
Never before in Australian history has bushfire fuel management fallen to such a low level that the majority of the countryside is classified as having “dangerous” fuel levels.
Never have our bushfire authorities placed such heavy reliance on firefighting as the answer to the bushfire threat, eschewing the “preventative medicine” approach of fuel management that was successful in the past. They ignore the fact that the suppression approach almost always fails when most needed.
How will these mergers impact upon the Rural Fire Service?
The NSW RFS eBulletin (May 2016 Issue 43) stated:
1. The NSW Rural Fire Service has an existing partnership with local government, and our Districts are based on local government boundaries, the changes will lead to some changes in our Service longer term.
2. There is no immediate change to NSW RFS arrangements or operations.
3. The NSW RFS continues to operate as normal and these changes do not affect day to day responses to emergencies or services to the community.
4. The NSW RFS will be further considering the council changes, as well as the proposed changes, and be communicating with members.
5. There is likely to be administrative changes but this would not affect capacity to deliver front line services.
NSW residents now have access to an easy to use online tool that will help assess their bush fire risk. The NSW RFS has developed the new programme to enable residents to identify whether their home sits within a bush fire prone area. Previously, people living in bush fire prone areas would have to source maps from their local council, to determine their risk.
By simply entering your address, the website will tell you if your home is on bush fire prone land.
We live in a country that needs fire and what happens is that we’ve stopped evolving with fire.
Our fire culture in Australia is totally flawed to nothing.
As before, even if you go back 100 years, pastoralists and people who were historically a part of land can tell you themselves there used to be fires all the time and even indigenous people would work in with them and burn country regularly, but we’ve backed up to a point of regulations, land tenures.
I sit at home and I watch the news and I see masses of country just going and it brings a tear to my eyes to see that country just being annihilated.
Mr Humphries refers to the Wambelong fire that occurred on 12 and 13 January around the Coonabarabran district and the Warrumbungle National Park.
On that day Bureau of Meteorology fire information, according to the continuous Haines index which measures atmospheric instability, was extreme.
On those days there were temperatures of more than 40 degrees and winds from the North to North‑West of 20 to 30 kilometres per hour.
The resulting fire damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of National Park, destroyed private property, destroyed 52 houses and numerous stock.
I find this response disappointing to say the least. The response denies any liability that government agencies inclusive of National Parks and the Rural Fire Service responsible for fire management in the area at the time acted in a negligent manner. It is clear that prior and during the fire wrong decisions were made and clear protocols were not adhered to leading to a catastrophic situation.
A number of landholders neighbouring the National Park were tragically affected by the actions of government agencies and we have a responsibility to make good on this. Hiding behind the claims manager is not the Nationals way of doing things and I do not accept the response to date.
Mr Humphries took aim at the government’s response which said it would not be liable to compensate landholders who lost property and stock, as per information from its insurer.
Recommendation 27 from the parliamentary inquiry recommended government to quickly get to the bottom of the issue and find who is responsible for paying compensation.
“The NSW Government take all reasonable steps to expedite the process of establishing any legal liability for the losses incurred by property owners as a result of the Wambelong fire, and in the event that it is found liable, expedite the process of paying compensation claims,” it said.
Three claims for compensation have been lodged with the NSW Self Insurance Corporation, with the government responding that “…(They) were referred to GIO as claims manager… who have declined the claims and informed the affected parties after carefully considering all the facts and circumstances of the matter”.
Mr Humphries announced he would help affected property owners continue their fight for compensation and would use parliamentary privilege to raise concerns over the handling of the blaze.
Have volunteers lost control of local firefighting?
Who has experienced this type of behaviour on the fire ground?
Is bullying and harassment going on in the RFS?
Has anyone been directly impacted either personally or knows someone?
Have we lost experienced and long standing volunteers as a result of the bullying?
How do we rectify this problem?