Australia — Tasmanian firefighters say they’ve been “kicked in the guts” by criticism of their role during January’s disastrous bushfires.
The United Firefighters Union said on Wednesday their members have not been given an opportunity to respond to a scathing independent report that slammed the state’s emergency planning, response and recovery efforts.
“Just be wary when you criticise firefighters, because they go in when everyone goes out,” acting state secretary Greg Cooper said in Hobart.
“Look at what firefighters saved. Look at the communities that were saved.
“Of course, it’s going to be a bit of a kick in the guts.”
Tasmania Fire Service (TFS) chief officer Mike Brown has said he disagrees with parts of former South Australian police commissioner Malcolm Hyde’s report, which was released on Tuesday.
The union has been backed by emergency services minister David O’Byrne, who has questioned aspects of a 200-page report that includes 103 recommendations.
“It was heroic and I will back the (services) … every time because they did a magnificent job in saving people’s lives,” Mr O’Byrne said.
The state government has accepted all of the report’s recommendations but Mr O’Byrne said some needed to be put in context.
“Some of the recommendations are more commentary … they accept people’s submissions,” he said.
“They raise questions but there is in some respects a lack of cross-examination of those comments.”
In a torrid parliamentary question time, Tasmania’s Liberal opposition called on Mr O’Byrne to resign.
The report criticises the fire service’s response to the worst-hit town, Dunalley, which lost more than 60 homes.
It says computer modelling predicted the oyster-growing community would be hit with 24 hours notice.
Chief Officer Brown has described the modelling as sometimes inaccurate, a view backed by Mr Cooper.
“You still have to have eyes and ears on the ground,” he said.
“How good is Hawk-Eye and how good is the third umpire in the cricket?”
The TFS was also backed on Wednesday by peak body AFAC, which also completed an audit of the response in May.
“Those working in the field and in incident management teams on the day were working under extreme pressure, often in personal danger, with grave responsibilities and incomplete information,” AFAC chief executive Stuart Ellis said.
“This is not the case when their actions and decisions are subsequently reviewed some time later.”
Meanwhile, Tasmania’s Police Association said budget cuts meant more resources were needed to cope with major events like bushfires.