THE lives of Cabramatta residents have been put at risk repeatedly by its fire station being closed despite a state government commitment to keep it open, firefighters say.
Fire Brigade Employees Union secretary Jim Casey said taking the station off-line on February 2 when firefighters were sent to Warragamba showed any promise by the O'Farrell government wasn't "worth the paper it's written on".
"The union takes the safety of the community seriously," he said. "Clearly, the O'Farrell government doesn't."
Cabramatta fire-station officer John Moore said there were special circumstances at play on February 2.
"Warragamba was short on firefighters and we were sent there and left our fire station unattended so the area was covered by nearby stations," he said.
"We always send trucks from two stations to a fire in case one breaks down or there's an accident.
"I wouldn't know if Fairfield was closed now and if we were called out I'd expect them to get there in two or three minutes but if they're off-line there might not be another truck for five minutes which would endanger my crew and the public."
He said the decision to send trucks off-site was not made by Fire and Rescue but by the state government, based on budget cuts.
Cabramatta MP Nick Lalich said taking firefighters and fire trucks outside the area meant if a fire broke out firefighters from outside Cabramatta would have to fight it. "Sometimes, the difference of a few minutes could mean life or death," he said. "Merely for the sake of saving money they've put our community at risk.
"We fought hard last year to get a commitment from the O'Farrell government to keep Cabramatta fire station opened, which we finally got in November.
"When they thought we weren't watching the government decided to sneakily close the station without letting anyone know."
Mr Lalich asked NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith, who was representing Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher in Parliament, how many days Cabramatta and Bonnyrigg fire stations were off-line, closed or not staffed between December 1 and January 30.
Mr Smith said: "On any given day across the Sydney metropolitan area, Fire and Rescue NSW has a network of between 96 and 109 permanently staffed fire engines, rescue and specialist trucks ready to respond to emergency incidents.
"On total fire-ban days, periods of extreme fire or weather danger, all 109 permanent trucks are available.
"This network of permanent resources is supported by additional retained [on-call] brigades as required. Moving permanent firefighters and trucks around Sydney is a standard practice governed by proven risk-management principles."