Emma Pritchard, Clarence Valley Independent
A proposal by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) to take Grafton Fire Station offline temporarily in the event of staff shortages has fired up the local community, including Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis.
As residents angrily expressed their concerns in response to the proposal on the Clarence Valley Independents Facebook page, Mr Gulaptis said he won’t accept any proposal that puts the community at risk.
If implemented, the proposal could threaten the safety of local residents who rely on the service by extending response times by up to 50 minutes while crews from Yamba, Maclean or Woolgoolga would be tasked to respond to call outs.
Grafton Fire and Rescue 306 Station Deputy Captain Chris Rumpf previously revealed South Grafton Fire Station experienced the same situation in 2008.
He said if both stations were offline at the same time, the community would not have a local service close by.
Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said the service is committed to keeping communities safe and uses a risk-based approach to managing the readiness of its emergency service delivery.
“FRNSW has an established procedure of managing all of its on-call fire stations, and the practice of taking fire trucks temporarily offline is partly a result of changing demographics, improvements in technology, and a more modern understanding of fire safety and risks,” he said
“Under FRNSW’s risk-based approach, which was formalised in conjunction with the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) in 2008, a fire truck is only temporarily taken offline when there are more than sufficient resources in the area to respond to emergencies.
“These decisions are based on data including ongoing incident response coverage of the area by other nearby appliances.”
Deputy Commissioner Fewtrell said each fire truck and its crew are a mobile resource available to respond wherever needed and FRNSW’s network of coverage is managed centrally from Communication Centres, enabling them to provide rapid emergency response based on the fastest available resource, independent of a fixed fire station’s location.
“The needs of the community are always taken into account when making a decision to take an appliance offline,” he said.
In response to the proposal, Mr Gulaptis said FRNSW has a responsibility to manage its resources effectively, but it would be the first to admit this must never come at the cost of public safety.
“I take the concerns expressed to me by experienced local firefighters very seriously and will need to be convinced of the accuracy of FRNSW’s assurance that ‘a fire truck is only temporarily taken offline when there are more than sufficient resources in the area to respond to emergencies’,” he said.
“I certainly won’t accept any proposal that puts the community at risk.”
Mr Gulaptis said he is following the status of Grafton Fire Station closely and would have more to say when the Industrial Relations Commission, which is looking into the matter, announces its findings.
This article appeared in Clarence Valley Independent, 22 September 2021.
Related story: Firefighters fight proposal to move Grafton offline.