WE’RE six weeks away from the Australian summer, one of the hottest on record if the weather bureau is to be believed.
Despite this, fire departments across NSW, Victoria and Queensland have been hit with huge cuts to their bottom line.
The numbers speak for themselves. The Victorian government has slashed $40 million from the Country Fire Authority fire fighting budget. In NSW, Fire Brigades Employees Union (FBEU) has [campaigned against the FRNSW] cut $64 million in employee benefits. While in Queensland the Fire and Rescue service face significant redundancies.
With last year’s wet La Nina behind us, the prospect of a El Nino summer means typically hot, dry conditions for much of eastern Australia. That means these cuts could not come at a worse time for anyone, especially in Queensland where there are currently 60 bushfires burning across the state.
James Casey, the state secretary for the NSW branch of the Fire Brigades Union, told news.com.au service and response times would be degraded.
“Here in NSW we’ve been forced to temporarily close several fire stations to cut costs. This means that several suburbs will be left un-manned and emergency response time will be longer to account for the journey,” Casey said.
But a spokesperson from the Victorian CFA told news.com.au frontline services would not be affected by the cuts. She said the money would be absorbed by “making savings at Headquarters and managing projects more efficiently, including adjusting timelines for delivery”.
The Department of Community Safety in Queensland responded by email with this reply:
“The Department of Community Safety (DCS) is realigning its structure to become more operationally agile and citizen-centric. As part of this realignment, process 345 positions will be affected. A number of staff in these affected positions have already been successful in securing other roles within DCS or across Government while others are currently considering voluntary redundancy.”
We have since been informed that the Queensland fire and rescue service is only one department within the DCS and has 2438 paid career firemen, who have been told they will not be at risk of losing their job. And any cuts are expected to take place after March.
Despite these assurances, these cuts to essential services can be seen as part of a global phenomenon. Next month in the United Kingdom, the London branch of The Fire Brigades Union will be debating how to make savings of almost £65 million, including the loss of 600 jobs and the closure of 17 fire stations in the capital.
Do you know anything about the cuts to fire departments in your state? Tell Lucy on Twitter @lucyjk or email firstname.lastname@example.org