A fire 1km from Hornsby’s fire station was attended to by firefighters from Gordon a fortnight ago, because of State Government reluctance to pay overtime to local firefighters.
Before November 2012, staff absences were filled by calling in off-shift firefighters and paying overtime.
Since then, due to budget cuts, Fire and Rescue NSW has been forced to send crews from other parts of Sydney to staff Hornsby and Berowra stations when local firefighters take leave.
Fire Brigade Employees Union records show this has happened seven times at Hornsby and twice at Berowra since November 2012.
An Ashfield crew manned Hornsby last Saturday.
On May 19, the yard fire was not life threatening and nor was a house fire in Cherrybrook on the same day, attended by fire crews from Beecroft.
A Fire and Rescue NSW statement said that local stations “may be briefly unstaffed while replacement crews travel to and from Hornsby or Berowra” and that they “have been identified as locations where a fire engine and crew must always be available.”
Hornsby state Liberal MP said the issue was an “operational matter” for Fire and Rescue NSW.
Hornsby mayor Steve Russell said the cuts to overtime “don’t worry” him. “I’m not worried as long as the Fire Brigade can provide the service and no-one’s life is in danger,” he said. The State Government “had to trim back” the budget. Hornsby Council paid $1.6 million in fire brigade levies in 2012.
Union state secretary Jim Casey said response times would be affected.
“It is not a question of if, it is a question of when it will end in tragedy.”