After three years, Mildura’s brand new aerial pumper is yet to see action in the region. Now it’s been sent to Melbourne indefinitely. In an emergency Mildura will get support from Bendigo – five hours away. Mildura’s $750,000 Country Fire Authority aerial pumper yet to be deployed in the region – has been sent to Melbourne indefinitely and firefighters fear the appliance might not return.
The pumper was purchased by the State Government three years ago but arrived in Mildura only in September last year and was not available to fight the $3 million PJs supermarket blaze in January. The United Firefighters Union claimed the pumper was sitting idle in the CFAs San Mateo Avenue depot waiting for defects to be fixed and crew allocated when PJs was destroyed by the fire. However, the union yesterday said Sunraysia firefighters were shocked to learn the pumper, which was recently utilised at the Hazelwood mine fire, had not returned to Mildura. United Firefighters Union secretary Peter Marshall said the saga of the Mildura aerial pumper has been an expensive farce.
“It’s been a kick in the guts for Mildura firefighters who spent weeks fighting the Hazelwood mine fire,” Mr Marshall said.
“When they returned home after their service to other parts of the state, they were stunned to learn that their appliance would not be returning with them.
Mr Marshall said the pumper would now be based indefinitely at Frankston in Melbourne’s south east while the Frankston tele-boom appliance was being repaired. He said the wait for spare parts could take months, and there was no guarantee that the truck would ever return to Mildura.
“The aerial pumper would have been extremely useful at re such as the Olam almond husk factory and PJs supermarket,” he said.
“For the Olam fire, aerial support was brought from Bendigo, five hours away.
“But when firefighters asked for aerial support to attack the recent PJs supermarket fire, their request was declined.
“Their own aerial pumper was in the backyard of the Mildura fire station, waiting for defects to be fixed and crew allocated.
“We recognise that metropolitan Melbourne needs fire protection but so does Mildura – and Mildura’s isolation means it does not have nearby support in the event of a major incident.” Mr Marshall said the financial pressures on the CFA again meant there were inadequate resources to protect Victorians.
“Mildura residents pay the Fire Services Levy, just like people in Melbourne, but the resources are missing,” he said.
Irymple volunteer firefighter Steve Krohn said the relocation of the pumper did not make sense.
“They bought it three or four years ago, brought it here, trained people, and now they need it somewhere else,” he said.
“While an aerial pumper is not a priority for Irymple, just having this appliance and extra crew takes some pressure off volunteer firefighters.” Red Cliffs-based Glen Shaw agreed that the absence of the new truck would impact on volunteers across the region.
“This area is getting enormous and we need to be self-reliant in community protection,” he said.
“There’s lots of new infrastructure going in at Red Cliffs where an aerial appliance is an absolute necessity.”
The aerial pumper would have been extremely useful at recent multi-million dollar blazes such as the Olam almond husk factory and PJs supermarket.