LOCAL firefighters fear it's a matter of time before lives are lost after Fairfield fire station was closed for the second time last Wednesday to fill staff shortages at Macquarie Fields.
A Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) spokeswoman confirmed the Fairfield station was left unmanned until 6pm, leaving nearby Cabramatta, Guildford, Bonnyrigg Heights and Smithfield to cover its territory, as part of a new policy to redress an “increase in sick leave and overtime” across the state.
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But a local firefighter of 10 years blamed the new policy on the state government's $70 million budget cuts, which he said left communities at risk.
“Someone will die, there's no doubt about it,” he said.
“We have a lot of nursing homes in Fairfield and Cabramatta. If there's a fire, a crew from Bonnyrigg or Guildford is sent instead, they'll take longer to get there. Every minute counts in a fire.”
The firefighter said claims by FRNSW the 2011-12 overtime budget had been over expended by 75 per cent were misleading.
“They're blaming us, but what they're not saying is that the budget was cut in half, and we're actually taking less time off than before,” he said. “(FRNSW Commissioner) Greg Mullins has let us down.”
Fairfield state Labor MP Guy Zangari said his community should expect a full complement of resources at all times. “This is about budget priorities, and putting more money into the fire services and not cutting staff, because these are the guys that protect us,” he said.
“I will not stand for this. My electorate deserves a fully-staffed brigade.”
NSW fire authorities made inquiries into taking Fairfield fire station offline for a third time during a Fairfield Advance photo shoot at the station on Monday.
Mr Zangari said he was shocked when the FRNSW communications team phoned with plans to send the Fairfield crew to Macquarie Fields – again.
“My jaw dropped,” Mr Zangari said. “If it wasn’t for the fact that one of the fire fighters was on approved leave for two hours that morning, they would have closed the station again.”