Fire and Rescue NSW says no local fire stations will be 'closed', but firefighters hold fears temporary unavailability of stations, including Bundeena, could risk tragic outcomes.
Fire Brigade Employees Union members met with Labor politicians Mark Buttigieg, opposition whip in the Legislative Council, and MP Jihad Dib, opposition spokesman for emergency services, at Bundeena Fire Station last week to discuss their fears the local stations would be 'taken offline as a budgetary measure.
The politicians said they confirmed in a Budget Estimates inquiry that Fire and Rescue NSW 'proposed to let additional stations be temporarily closed when available staff fell below four'.
"An extension of response time because the nearest station has been temporarily closed only heightens people's fears and increases the risk of tragic outcomes," Mr Dib said.
The Leader asked the office of NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott to respond to the FBEU's fears the station would be temporarily 'taken offline' if retained staff (who remain on call in the event of a fire or rescue incident, but not do not remain at stations for the duration of shifts) were unavailable.
Instead, a Fire and Rescue NSW spokesman responded and said, "we are not closing fire stations".
"Fire and Rescue NSW is not reducing service delivery to the community of NSW," he said. "FRNSW fire trucks are part of a mobile network of resources which don't stay permanently parked at stations. All trucks have Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) to enable the closest and most appropriate truck to respond. Trucks will only be temporarily taken offline if it is safe to do so and there are other trucks in the network which could quickly respond to an incident."
Labor's Mark Buttigieg said the government and FRNSW are being 'tricky' with its words.
"The Liberal government can dress this up with as many catchphrases as it likes," he said.
"The fact is that a person in Bundeena who has their local fire and ambulance station "taken offline" and on top of that, the two nearest ones of Helensburgh and Stanwell Park simply means the stations are effectively closed.
"People are not stupid - they know that there will be no one available to respond within half an hour away and that threatens their safety in a chronically and notoriously bushfire prone area.
"It's not good enough and the people of Bundeena, Scarborough and Helensburgh deserve ready and available emergency services just like everyone else".
Mr Buttigieg said more resources should be put into bolstering local fire stations, like the impending construction of a station in Oran Park.
"Any delays in emergency response times leaves our communities exposed," he said. "The people of Sydney's south and northern Illawarra deserve their own adequately resourced local fire stations, and they should not have to wait for fire trucks from other areas to arrive."
FBEU members said sometimes unavailability of firies accredited to drive the fire trucks meant crews could not respond to incidents as speedily as they would hope, and more training was needed to skill up all retained firefighters.
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