Fairfield fire stations to stay open

Open: Councillor Lawrence White, mayor Frank Carbone, Fairfield MP Guy Zangari, Cabramatta MP Nick Lalich and Fire Brigade Employees Union representative Brendan Rea at Fairfield fire station. Picture: Wesley Lonergan
Open: Councillor Lawrence White, mayor Frank Carbone, Fairfield MP Guy Zangari, Cabramatta MP Nick Lalich and Fire Brigade Employees Union representative Brendan Rea at Fairfield fire station. Picture: Wesley Lonergan

THE Fire Brigade Employees Union has won its campaign to keep four local fire stations permanently open.

Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone received a letter from the parliamentary secretary for police and emergency services Geoff Provest confirming the decision.

For the past 12 months, Fairfield, Smithfield, Cabramatta and Bonnyrigg Heights have been subject to "TOLing" — being placed "temporarily off line" (TOL) on some days.

The measure was part of a state government cost-cutting measure which was a concern for the council, Fairfield state Labor MP Guy Zangari and a Fire Brigade Employees Union.

At a council meeting in August, union representative Brendan Rea told councillors that being TOL was "dangerous".

His concerns prompted the council to write an urgent letter to Police and Emergency Services Minister Michael Gallacher as well as Premier Barry O'Farrell.

In response, Mr Provest wrote that NSW Fire and Rescue Commissioner Greg Mullins had advised that the four fire stations will now remain permanently online.

This means if there are staff shortages at any of these fire stations, firefighters from other stations would be sent to the station to fill in so that it remains open.

But Fire Brigade Employees Union secretary Jim Casey has reservations.

"Not TOLing these four stations will increase the pressure for Fire and Rescue NSW to close other stations to meet the budget cut," he said.

"There is also a high likelihood that firefighters may be sent with their engine to a different station.

"So while these four stations may remain permanently online, there's no guarantee they will be online in their area."

Cr Carbone said he was pleased with the government's response.

"When a fire occurs, we need to make sure we have local fire stations to respond in a short time frame because it's a matter of life or death," he said.

"Ratepayers should expect that these fire stations are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to deal with any emergency."

The letter also states there would be times, in particular at the beginning and end of shifts, when stations would not be staffed while replacement crews travelled from one station to the other.

Mr Zangari said while he was happy to hear the news, he was still concerned about the stations being unstaffed for short periods.

"I think it's good and I hope they stick to it but I subsequently found out that Smithfield fire station has already been taken offline once."

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