By Luke Voogt
The State Government’s planned CFA changes could reduce local units’ expertise and their ability to quickly mobilise volunteers, the service’s Geelong group officer has warned.
“If it’s done poorly it could be a disaster for the community. If it’s done well it could enhance (units),” Roger Buckle said.
He called on the government to reveal its plans amid rumours that Emergency Services Minister James Merlino would announce a CFA restructure today (Friday).
The Weekly Times reported on Wednesday that the minister would split the CFA into a volunteer-only force protecting rural areas and career firefighters in urban areas.
The state reportedly wants to split the CFA to deliver a union deal with 600 career firefighters.
“We’re calling on the government to put community first,” Mr Buckle said.
“I hope (the restructure) is not driven by politics.
“At the moment we don’t know what’s happening and we’re only hearing rumours. We need to know for the benefit of all concerned.”
The Lara CFA captain said losing his volunteers would be a “tragic day”.
The “status quo” structure for his brigade had proven safe for the community, he said.
“The volunteers are really concerned about community safety, especially the rural areas, if they are forcibly removed because of a political decision.”
Volunteers provided a vital “surge” capability to fight large fires, Mr Buckle said.
“At certain times of the day we can easily get 15 fire fighters. (Career firefighters) do a fantastic job but they’re limited in the numbers they have.
“The Lara brigade is probably in one of the most difficult situations at the moment given that we’re about to have staff move in and don’t know what that means.”
Other local CFA captains told the Indy that the government had failed to adequately update them on the changes.
“I know there are a lot of people who certainly don’t want it, staff and volunteers as well,” said Grovedale’s Robert Clark.