Fire brigades around Victoria are already reporting how budget cutbacks are affecting operations. Money that was intended for firefighting – for firefighters, protective clothing, and equipment – is being diverted to cover increases in power and fuel bills. Firefighters are being asked to raise their own money to cover costs.
Cutbacks in the Loddon-Mallee Region include:
- Restrictions on recruiting volunteer firefighters (brigades need prior approval)
- Issuing second-hand uniform to volunteers (Wildfire and Structural Personal Protective Clothing)
- Where possible, recruits will get secondhand uniform that has been cleaned and repaired
- Caps on new firefighting equipment
- Caps on vehicle costs and building maintenance
- No additional funding
- to cover CPI increases in the cost of diesel, power, telecommunications
- to support additional Divisional Command Centres or new fire stations.
- or for training 40 additional brigades gained under new boundaries.
- The cost of firefighting being pushed back on volunteers with the CFA aiming to “Encourage those brigades capable of doing so to fully fund their own initiatives.”
Cutbacks in the Grampians Region include:
- Staff cuts, vacancies not filled
- Where possible new recruits will be issued with second-hand gear
- Cuts to early fire warning by capping the costs of fire spotting towers
- Reviewing the issue of ration packs to firefighters
- Cutting back first aid training
- Deferring non-essential building maintenance
At one outer metro CFA station:
- A trainer who asked for 6 copies of the essential “Overall fuel hazard guide” was told they could only have one copy, and to share it.
At the MFB there is a freeze on more than 80 IT projects including:
- The Spatial Data Collection Project which, according to one insider, “…will save lives and increase firefighter safety during major events.”
Trauma Teddies are no longer used to comfort distraught children:
- Trauma Teddies are given out occasionally to children in emotional distress, eg when their house has burned down, or their parents are injured in car accident. They cost $32.70. A typical brigade might give out 5 or 6 a year. But no more! They are not “operational equipment”.
Staff shortages in the CFA are having an impact on community fire protection.
For example, fire stations must if they don’t have sufficient crew.
- Hallam fire station in Melbourne’s south east has been closed a number of times. This is a suburban fire station that protects local residents 24/7. Instead they have to wait longer for a truck to come from Dandenong or further.
Expensive firefighting trucks stand idle:
- Under the previous government, Mildura is one of four cities due to get an aerial pumper (worth about $3 million each) for fighting fires from above. In major incidents, Mildura must get assistance from Bendigo – 450 kilometres away. Mildura should have its own aerial pumper. It’s been paid for. Instead it has been sitting in the sun at Fiskville for the past 18 months until they get sufficient crew to operate it.
- Other stations like Traralgon have a new Bronto 42-metre ladder plaform which they can’t use because of a lack of staff, and equipment. (The CFA supplied secondhand hose with holes in it!) This is needed if there’s a fire at critical centres like Victoria’s power stations, the Longford gas plant, or local paper mills.