Firefighters pinning their faith in Martin

Firefighters pinning their faith in Martin

26 September 2008

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Australia — Local firies are putting their faith in Member for Bathurst Gerard Martin to keep Kelso fire station operating around the clock.

Kelso is one of 30 stations across the state targeted to go “off line” whenever there are less than four retained fire fighters available to respond to a call. Currently full-time fire fighters on overtime are brought in to fill staffing gaps.

Stations like Kelso are not permanently manned, instead they utilise part-time firefighters who are paged whenever there is a call out.

However, increasing demands from primary employers now see these retained fire fighters torn between holding onto their jobs and responding to call outs. This is resulting in a greater need for off duty full-time firies to step in to ensure the vehicles are safely manned.

But of course this costs money and with the State Government in financial crisis, changes to the system are being implemented and once again the Bathurst region will be the big loser.

State secretary of the Fire Brigade Union, Simon Flynn, said cities as big as Bathurst need more firefighters, not less.

“We think local member Gerard Martin is a great advocate for the fire- fighters of Bathurst and we hope he can contribute to making sure Kelso is not closed down,” Mr Flynn said.

“I know Mr Martin was recently able to get a new fire engine for Bathurst.

“We would like to see him use his influence in this matter as well.”

Mr Flynn said Kelso brigade is the only real backup of firefighters for the city of Bathurst.

“Should Kelso be taken out of the loop, it will make it substantially more dangerous for firefighters,” he said.

He said the move would also have serious ramifications for the township of Oberon. Kelso brigade provides back-up for Oberon.

“Oberon has a big timber mill. We are very concerned that if there are not sufficient firefighters in the area, it might put the timber mill at risk. The danger to the town is also substantial.”

Mr Flynn said the new system is a result of the settlement of the firefighters’ pay dispute late last week. He said that firefighters had made it clear throughout the long running pay dispute that firies’ pay rises should not be linked to station closures.

“We believe that firefighters deserve a pay rise without it having to be funded by taking stations off line and that this is in keeping with community expectations,” he said.

“The Government is playing Russian roulette with community safety and that is not acceptable.”

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