SUTHERLAND Shire’s only aerial firefighting truck, which can be used to rescue people from six-storey buildings, is unavailable an average of once a month because of cost cutting.
If such an emergency occurred in the shire on one of those days, a unit would have to come from Kogarah.
The truck is based at Miranda fire station, which Labor candidate in the Miranda by-election, Barry Collier, claimed had been closed 11 times since rolling station closures started last November.
Mr Collier said, in the same period, Sutherland fire station was closed 27 times.
Fire & Rescue NSW did not dispute the figures but denied public safety was being jeopardised.
‘‘Both Miranda and Sutherland fire stations have been identified as locations where a fire engine and crew must always be available,’’ a spokeswoman said.
‘‘Therefore, on days when these stations may have staff shortages or firefighters are deployed to other fire stations in Sydney, a crew and truck from another station will be relocated to provide a response from these locations.
‘‘When the aerial firefighting truck at Miranda fire station is temporarily offline, the station still has a fire truck available to respond to emergencies.
‘‘If the emergency does need an aerial appliance to attend, the truck from Kogarah is available to respond within Fire & Rescue NSW benchmark time frames.’’
Firefighter Mick Nairn, a delegate for the Sydney south sub-branch of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union, said the extra 15 minutes it would take for an aerial unit to travel from Kogarah could be vital.
Mr Nairn said firefighters from other areas, who had to provide cover during station closures, were not as familiar with the area.
Union secretary Jim Casey said although station closures might not cause a risk to public safety 99 per cent of the time, ‘‘it is the 1percent that concerns us, particularly since they are avoidable’’.
No staff at Miranda
Fire & Rescue NSW confirmed that when bushfires raged in western Sydney on September 10, Miranda fire station was unmanned.
‘‘Due to staff shortages, a crew and fire truck from Botany fire station was relocated to Miranda fire station at 9am,’’ a spokeswoman said.
‘‘At 11am, this crew was reassigned to form part of a strike team to assist with the bushfire emergency on the bushland fringes of Sydney.
‘‘As the weather deteriorated and a total fire ban was called, off-duty firefighters were recalled to Miranda fire station to staff the fire engine from 2pm.’’
Are you worried about cuts to fire services in the shire?