• Tony Bosworth

Windsor & Richmond fire stations could be temporarily closed - MP calls for more stations not less

Windsor and Richmond Fire and Rescue stations are on a hit list of stations that could be temporarily closed across NSW, it has emerged during hearings at the Industrial Relations Commission.

There are fears the proposed move could lead to lives in danger due to potentially longer response times.

Richmond Fire and Rescue units outside the town's fire station

The Commission is hearing evidence for and against temporarily closing stations when there are staff shortages. It’s a system referred to by Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) as a TOL (taken off line) list.

It would mean that if Richmond is temporarily closed, for example, teams from Windsor, or other stations even further afield, would attend an emergency.

The Commission hearing was told by Fire and Rescue NSW counsel that there are 22 stations on the TOL list NSW-wide, and they include our two main local stations – Richmond and Windsor.

“I am very concerned about the NSW Government’s proposal to include the Hawkesbury fire stations of Richmond and Windsor on the target list of those who can shut their doors temporarily and take their fire trucks off the road,” Macquarie MP Susan Templeman said today.

“The Hawkesbury has a need for more fire stations, not less, with RFS volunteers already expected to cover the expanse across the river in a fast growing area at times.

“This will leave our community worse off and the State Member for Hawkesbury [Robyn Preston] and Mayor of Hawkesbury [Patrick Conolly] should both be shouting loudly about it to their colleagues in Macquarie St, as their counterparts on the Blue Mountains side of my electorate are and the Fire Brigade Employees Union,” said Ms Templeman.

Blue Mountains Mayor Mark Greenhill – whose local government area also has five stations on the TOL list - has been giving evidence to the Commission in a bid to stop his region seeing any of their fire stations taken off line.

Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner, Jeremy Fewtrell, told the Commission, “the practice of taking fire trucks temporarily offline is partly a result of changing demographics, improvements in technology, and a more modern understanding of fire ­safety and risks”.

“Each fire truck and its crew is a mobile resource available to respond wherever it is needed,” he said, “enabling crews to provide rapid emergency ­response based on the fastest available resource, independent of fixed fire station ­locations”.

But Ms Templeman says it’s not good enough and fire fighters speaking at the Commission hearings have warned it’s not a good idea too. Central Coast firefighter Mick Stone told the hearing, “why limit anything, why not just leave the stations there?"

"I don't think the risk assessments [for tolling stations] are adequate. If they can toll [take them off line] them, they [senior management] will toll them, it saves money. We shouldn't be tolling any stations. I'm on a truck, we need more fire stations not less.”

“People know that I lost my house in Winmalee in the 2013 bushfires,” Ms Templeman told the Post, “and that fire happened really fast. Houses were saved or lost based on a few minutes, or even moments, and there were too few appliances to cover the area that fire quickly swept through.

“The availability of local Hawkesbury Fire and Rescue trucks can make all the difference in a fast moving bushfire or house fire – the difference between losing your kitchen or your whole house.

“This decision, if it isn’t stopped, will lead to one of two scenarios at accidents and fires.

“The first is that it will involve longer wait times, if a fire truck needs to travel from Blacktown or Rooty Hill.

“Alternatively, it will put more pressure on the RFS volunteers. If there is no Fire and Rescue truck available, who is going to go to the fire, or the fatal car accident or the emergency? It will be RFS crews, who do it for no pay, but just because it’s the right thing to do for their community.

“I will be keeping a close eye on this case as it progresses through the Industrial Relations Commission.”

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