By Casey Neill
Hallam firefighters say fire service reforms are good news for paid and volunteer members and the community.
Hallam Fire Brigade senior station officer Stephen Keating contacted the Journal because he was fed up with negative commentary surrounding the reforms announced last month.
Paid CFA members and 450 new career firefighters will join with the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB) to become Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV), leaving the CFA as a solely volunteer organisation.
The move was tied to a years-long ongoing dispute between the United Firefighters Union and CFA over an enterprise bargaining agreement.
“Hallam CFA will still exist, and it will exist as a fully volunteer group,” Mr Keating said.
“But they’ll work out of and co-locate with the FRV station here.
“There’ll be very little change to the way we do business now.”
He joined the CFA staff in 1995 when Hallam was responding to 600 calls a year.
“This year we’ll nearly do 2000,” he said.
“We now service 72,000 people in our response area.
“We’re still on the back foot as far as staffing on our trucks compared to metropolitan Melbourne.
“In metro Melbourne the same truck we’ve got out here would have four people on it as a minimum.
“Ours carries three.”
Hallam sometimes receives support from staff stations and at other times volunteers lend a hand.
“It’s not always clear the amount of people who we’ve got coming,” Mr Keating said.
“We can end up in some situations where we’ve got to do a bit more work than usual with our supporting brigade not arriving in a timely fashion.
“The safety of the fire crews will be improved with new changes to the system.
“And we’re going to see a lot more focus for the CFA on engaging volunteers.
“They’re not going to be working on industrial matters and managing staff training and managing staff rostering.”
Mr Keating said the presumptive legislation for all firefighters was another benefit of the legislation.
“There’s some 12 recognised cancers that firefighters are deemed to be susceptible to,” he said.
“What people have to go through, worrying about coverage, demonstrating where they got it from – that won’t have to happen anymore.”
Mr Keating said everyone still had questions.
“But we’re comfortable with the discussions that the Minister and CFA have had with us, that there’ll be an appropriate working party to nut out all of the working machinations or procedures.”