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FIREFIGHTING AIR FLEET INCREASES

 by Commissioner Craig Lapsley, Emergency Management Victoria

 

AS WE HAVE SEEN FROM the forecast conditions in the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook released in early September, Victoria faces an increased risk of an above normal fire season, with a potentially earlier start in some parts of the state. While fire risk seems a long way away when we have communities dealing with storms, hail and in some cases significant snowfall, this is no doubt a good time to begin thinking about what we need to do in the months ahead.

The outlook is an early indication of what Victoria could expect in the summer season, but there is a lot that can change before we start to get a clearer picture of what our warmer months will bring. (Please see page 5 of this edition for further details on the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook).   The severity of the fire season will depend on a number of factors, including the amount, location and timing of rain in the months leading up to summer. Recent rainfall across the north and north-east of the state will slow our planned burn work, but if we see more spring rains in those areas it could also dampen the fire risk for longer.

But the early forecast shows there is underlying dryness in some areas of the state, particularly across central parts of Victoria and across the east.

 The Victorian firefighting aircraft fleet will be bigger this year. This is excellent news and combines well with the good work done on pre-determined dispatch in previous years.

A total of 49 aircraft have been secured for Victoria for the summer season, each strategically positioned across the state.

The State Government has increased the funding allowing an additional water bombing aircraft to join the fleet, with the additional helicopter (Helitak) will be based at Bacchus Marsh as first response in the outer metropolitan area. This is a first and adds to the existing fleet of helicopters and fixed wing water bombers.

The fleet will again include two Large Air Tankers (LATs) and two orange Air-Cranes which are available to respond across Victoria.

Summer season preparations across emergency management agencies are well underway. Pre-season briefings for emergency management personnel will begin to rollout across Victoria so our people understand the seasonal outlook, know the risks, are prepared to respond to emergencies, working with our communities.

It’s important that the community also begins their fire prevention and preparedness works. Plan early and act early is a key message, use spring to get ready and prepare your properties, yourself and your family.

Forest Fire Management Victoria and CFA have brought forward preparedness activities, including the spring planned burning program.

We are in this together - government, agencies, communities and business - and go into the summer season knowing we work best when we work collaboratively as a strong, capable sector with a focus on the best outcomes for the communities we serve.

Welcome The Fireman Victoria

INTRODUCTION
Welcome to the website of ‘The Fireman’, the longest running publication
within Victoria’s country fire service.
A monthly publication, ‘The Fireman’ is fully supported by Country Fire Authority and is the official publication of Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria and CFA State Rescue Association and supported by CFA.

Read more: Welcome The Fireman Victoria

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO SELECT COMMITTEE INQUIRY

Government response to Select Committee Inquiry

The Victorian Labor Government supports all substantive recommendations of the Select Committee Inquiry into fire services reforms and will act on all concerns raised by the Inquiry.
The  Government response to the Select Committee Inquiry was tabled on 7 September and accepts or accepts-in-principle nine of the Inquiry’s 12 recommendations. It reads:
“The Labor Government remains focused on reforming Victoria’s outdated fire services and implementing the framework for change proposed in the  Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017.
“A number of amendments will be made to address issues surrounding secondment, support for volunteers, funding certainty for CFA and strengthening the powers of the CFA Chief Fire Officer.
“These were raised during the committee process, through consultations following the release of the Fire Services Statement, and in discussions with the cross bench. These include:
• Establishing an independent Implementation Monitor who will oversee and publicly report on the reforms to ensure that CFA volunteers are supported and protected. The Monitor will be tasked with ensuring  funding for volunteers is secure, training opportunities are provided, and implementation plans are in place
• Revising the secondment model to give explicit power to the Chief Fire Officer over recruitment and discipline decisions, and introduce a provision allowing external recruitment, to ensure that CFA has the right people to support volunteer firefighters
• Clarify that the first step before any change in the Fire District Boundary must be to give local CFA volunteer brigades more support to effectively respond to fires
• Further enshrine the role of CFA volunteers and the obligation on both fire services to work together.
“The Committee heard from firefighters, emergency services leaders, experts and the wider community during hearings right across the state. Almost 2000 submissions were received from the community and they have played a significant role in the formulating of these changes.
“Nearly three quarters of written submissions to the Inquiry support reform and the need to modernise Victoria’s fire services system – which dates back to the 1950s – was raised repeatedly throughout the hearings.”

REPORT ON FIRE SERVICES' BILL

 

Select Committee report on proposed Fire Services’ Bill

THE LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL SELECT COMMITTEE ON FIRE SERVICES presented its final report into the proposed restructure of the CFA and MFB on 18 August as proposed in the Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2017.

The Select Committee has recommended that the Bill should be withdrawn, or rejected by the Legislative Council. The Select Committee has also recommended that part 2 of the Bill, relating to firefighters’ presumptive rights compensation, should be reintroduced to Parliament as a stand-alone Bill to be considered on its merits. In total, the Select Committee has made 10 findings and 10 recommendations.

“We have made these recommendations because of the lack of certainty around implementation, operations, and funding under the proposed restructure; the failure to undertake consultation; and, the consequential polarisation of fire services staff and volunteers,” said Select Committee Chairman, Gordon Rich-Phillips.

The Select Committee’s recommendations emphasise the importance of consultation in reform of the fire services. It has called on the Government to ensure compliance with its consultation obligations under the Volunteer Charter and the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 prior to proceeding with any further reform of the fire services.

The Select Committee has also recommended that the Government undertake meaningful and balanced consultation with Emergency Management Victoria, CFA, MFB, staff and volunteer representatives prior to proposing any further reform of the fire services. Other recommendations focus on employment of CFA staff and funding arrangements for the fire services.

Almost 1,900 submissions were accepted by the Select Committee and public hearings were held in Melbourne and across regional Victoria.

“The Select Committee is grateful to all the firefighters and other community members who contributed their views to this inquiry,” Mr Rich-Phillips said. “The evidence we received has shown the depth of feeling on these issues in the community.” A minority report produced by the Select Committee’s Labor and Green MPs called for the Bill to be passed, stating “. . . it provided a framework for modern fire services that will be able to adapt to change and keep Victorians safe into the future”. The Select Committee’ majority report is available from its website – www.parliament.vic. gov. au/fireservicesbill/article/3782 The key recommendations from the report: Recommendation 6: Due to the lack of implementation, operational and funding certainty; failure to undertake consultation; and consequential polarisation of fire services volunteers and staff, the Bill should be withdrawn. If not withdrawn, the Legislative Council should reject the Bill.

Recommendation 7: Part 2 of the Bill, ‘Firefighters’ Presumptive Rights Compensation’ should be reintroduced to Parliament as a stand-alone Bill to be considered on its merits. Other recommendations: Recommendation 1: The Government ensure compliance with its consultation obligations under the Volunteer Charter and the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 prior to proceeding with any further reform of the fire services. Recommendation 2: The Government undertake meaningful and balanced consultation with Emergency Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority, the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, staff and volunteer representatives prior to proposing any further reform of the fire service Recommendation 3: The Government develop and publish a detailed implementation plan in parallel with any further fire services reform proposal. Recommendation 4: Country Fire Authority staff should continue to be employed directly by the Country Fire Authority, and solely within the Country Fire Authority chain of command. Secondment should only be used for staff exchange/development opportunities, not as a default employment mechanism. Recommendation 5: The Government and its agencies not endorse any enterprise agreement, instrument or accord, which has the effect of limiting the exercise of statutory powers of the chief officer(s) of the fire service(s). Recommendation 8: The Government ensure adequate infrastructure funding for the fire services independently of the restructure. Recommendation 9: The Government develop and publish a detailed funding plan in parallel with any further fire services structural reform proposal. The funding plan should identify and address the impact of: (a) resource and asset transfers between the Country Fire Authority and Fire Rescue Victoria; (b) the creation of the Fire Rescue Victoria fire district on the Fire Services Property Levy revenue base beyond the two year freeze period; and (c) any changes to the differential charging rates for the Fire Services Property Levy beyond the two year freeze period. Recommendation 10: The Legislative Council refer the Department of Premier and Cabinet to the Legislative Council Privileges Committee for investigation of its interference with the Committee’s inquiry.

The findings from the report: FINDING 1: The restructure of the Country Fire Authority and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade as proposed in the Bill was not included among the recommendations of the fire services reviews undertaken over the last decade. FINDING 2: The policy development process for the restructure did not involve representatives from Emergency Management Victoria, the Country Fire Authority or the Metropolitan Fire Brigade. FINDING 3: The Government’s failure to consult with the Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria as required by the Volunteer Charter and the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 has caused considerable concern to Country Fire Authority volunteers, reinforced the perception of a bias towards the United Firefighters Union, and undermined confidence in the restructure proposal. FINDING 4: The Government’s original written submission to the Committee contained substantial errors relating to its claimed level of consultation. Its failure to acknowledge and correct those errors until prompted by the Committee undermines confidence in the claimed consultation process. FINDING 5: The Government’s failure to undertake implementation planning in parallel with developing the restructure proposal has caused substantial and unnecessary uncertainty in the community as to the impact of the proposed changes on the fire services. FINDING 6: The Government has taken the unusual step of including ‘implementing the Victorian Government’s fire and emergency services priorities’ as a statutory function of Fire Rescue Victoria alongside fire prevention and suppression, and emergency prevention and response. FINDING 7: Section 38 of the Bill as drafted may limit the capacity of the Country Fire Authority Chief Officer to exercise operational control of seconded staff. FINDING 8: The impact of the restructure on firefighting surge capacity is disputed and will not be known until after the restructure is bedded down. It is important that surge capacity is not diminished through changes to the fire services. FINDING 9: The development and publication of quarterly outcomes based fire services performance measures will provide the Victorian community with more meaningful data than is presently available. FINDING 10: The Government’s claim of executive privilege over the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission report is inconsistent with the Commission’s stated intention of publicly releasing its report in mid 2017. The Committee regards the changing explanations provided by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner for her failure to comply with the summons, along with the Government’s claim of executive privilege as designed to frustrate the Committee’s Inquiry.

History of the Fireman

Since 1947 ‘The Fireman’ has provided news and information to CFA brigades, keeping fire-
fighters up to date on developments within the organisation. It has also given brigades and
firefighters an opportunity to contribute items and make comments on a wide range of
issues.
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