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Firefighters fight proposal to move Grafton offline

Emma Pritchard

Grafton Fire Station is among 30 across the state outlined in a proposal by Fire and Rescue NSW to be temporarily taken offline in the event of staff shortages.

The recent announcement has angered the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) in the Industrial Relations Commission and Grafton Fire and Rescue 306 Station Deputy Captain and union delegate Chris Rumpf, who is concerned by the potential adverse risks the proposal represents to the local community.

If implemented, Deputy Captain Rumpf said the proposal could jeopardise the safety of residents who rely on the service.

He explained that while Grafton has 17 retained firefighters who all work and have family commitments, a minimum of six are required to be available when responding to a call out.

“Fire and Rescue NSW will pay for someone to sit at the fire station if numbers don’t meet the minimum requirement,” he revealed, adding many of the jobs the station respond to are local, with Grafton crewmembers often working in unison with South Grafton crewmembers.

“If Grafton is taken offline, crews from Yamba, Maclean or Woolgoolga will be allocated to respond to a call out, which will result in an extra 50 minute delayed response time, and that will have an adverse impact on the community.

“At Grafton, we also have a hazmat tanker so we can respond to incidents involving hazardous materials.

“And its not just house fires and domestic incidents we respond to, we also respond to bush fires.

“A lot of us do this job because we’re a part of the community too, and we don’t want to have that taken away.”

Deputy Captain Rumpf expressed further concerns when he revealed South Grafton Fire Station experienced the same situation in 2008, and if both stations were offline at the same time, the community would not have a local service close by.

Describing the proposal as nothing except a way to save money, Deputy Captain Rumpf also revealed local crewmembers have not been consulted.

“We only found out about it through the union over the weekend,” he said.

“Are the cost cuts worth the potential adverse risk to the community?”

Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) State Secretary Martin Dixon said the NSW Government should be turning its mind to increasing fire services to serve the increasing population in the state.

“Instead, they want to shut local fire stations down to save money,” he said.

“The Union for Professional Firefighters in NSW and the FBEU are fighting hard to stop this proposal through every way possible, including through the courts, but we need the help of local communities.”

Deputy Captain Rumpf is encouraging the community to contact Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis to express their concerns regarding the proposal.

Mr Gulaptis and Fire & Rescue NSW were both approached for comment.