News Article

A trucking emergency for firefighters

Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes

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Jan 31, 2024

THERE’S a big difference between roadworthy and safe when it comes to the vehicles used for fighting fires. Older vehicles don’t have, for example, ABS brakes, hill start assist or air bags, and in some cases in the shire, firefighters are expected to sit on the back of trucks, in the open air, while travelling to fight fires.

We have all heard stories of fire trucks being overcome by flames in recent Australian fires. On Black Saturday, for example, 25 CFA tankers were caught in burn-overs. No-one was injured in the twin cab vehicles but four were injured on the 17 older style single cab trucks relying on a sprinkler system for safety. It is unreasonable to expect our volunteer firefighters to have such limited protection when travelling on the back of trucks to protect the community.

It is estimated that between 13 and 16 fire trucks in Murrindindi Shire are aged over 25. CFA trucks are meant to be replaced when they reach the age of 25.

There is also a trend within the CFA towards ‘cascading’. An ageing vehicle, of, say, 30 years of age, might be replaced with a 20 year old truck from another station. The 30 year old truck might then go to another local station.

In 2006, the CFA had a 20 year replacement policy on vehicles. By 2014, 24 per cent of vehicles were over 20 years of age. This has now been eroded. In 2017, the oldest vehicles were 30 years of age. There are now 193 vehicles in the state which are older than 30.

There was also a feeling among volunteers that the CFA treats stations in smaller areas more poorly than those in larger towns.

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) state councillor Paul Denham said, “The CFA fleet is too old, despite what the Chief Fire Officer might say. We shouldn’t be driving vehicles without ABS, airbags, and with crews on the back of vehicles, especially given the state of the roads. We should be past that.”

Fire Services Implementation Monitor

The Fire Services Implementation Monitor (FSIM) annual report for 2021/22, stated, “As outlined by the independent financial sustainability reviews, CFA’s Asset Management Strategy and Fire Rescue Victoria’s (FRV) Capital Planning, FSIM notes that the majority of CFA’s and FRV’s delivery assets are aged beyond useful life (specifically, stations, appliances and equipment). CFA and FRV have informed FSIM that the aged assets could pose significant risks to CFA’s and FRV’s future service delivery.”

CFA annual report

In the CFA 2022/23 annual report, it states, “The delivery of 50 new crew cab tankers is well underway with 17 completed by June 2023. These vehicles are replacing single cab tankers which will eliminate the need for crew to be on the back while travelling to and from an incident. The remaining tankers should be completed by May 2024.”

CFA response to questioning

The CFA was asked to confirm that all CFA tankers will be twin-cab by May 2024, as suggested above, or will some brigades still require crews to travel on the back of the tanker.

A CFA spokesperson responded, Read more.

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