Firefighters' union calls for new stations, uniforms and staff

The firies' union has called for the funding of two new recruit courses, new uniforms and two new fire stations in next year's ACT budget.

United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville said the current uniforms for Canberra firefighters were inferior, putting firefighters at risk, especially during "flashover events".

 United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville. Photo: Karleen Minney

 United Firefighters Union ACT branch secretary Greg McConville. Photo: Karleen Minney

A flashover event occurs when the temperature from one fire in a room gets so hot, everything else in the room suddenly and simultaneously ignites.

In their submission to the 2019-20 ACT budget, the union repeated previous calls for two new fire stations, one in the city and one in the Molonglo Valley in western Canberra.

While the ACT government and the Emergency Services Agency is currently considering a site, Mr McConville said "a commitment needs to be made sooner rather than later".

"The government has done extensive modelling over the years our view is, it's time to stop talking about it and deliver," he said.

A spokesman for emergency services minister Mick Gentleman said they had identified a site for a new Fire & Rescue and Ambulance station and would continue to monitor urban development in the area before making a commitment.

The union said a fire in Denman Prospect, which took emergency services 14 minutes to respond to, was an example of why a new station in the valley was needed.

Mr Gentleman's spokesman said they were still waiting for modelling by a UK firm on the best location.

The firm's previous report found that in 2014 firefighters arrived on scene within six-and-a-half minutes in 40.4 per cent of cases, but that dropped to 5.9 per cent of cases when applied only to the Molonglo Valley.

The union has also said that despite a funding commitment for a new recruit course in February next year, ACT Fire & Rescue would still be understaffed.

"We think we need to have two in the following financial year just to maintain current numbers," Mr McConville said.

He said there were about 348 funded positions in ACT Fire and Rescue, and nearly two-thirds of the firefighters are over the age of 40 with a number on long-service leave and unlikely to return.

The union's submission also referenced a video which compared the outdated uniform technology to that of newer ones, showing the outdated uniforms catching alight easier and sustaining more damage in a flashover.

While ACT Fire & Rescue confirmed it was currently in the process of updating its protective equipment, Mr McConville said this had been happening for over year.

A photo of a Canberra firefighter's burnt uniform after a September 2017 incident, supplied by the United Firefighter's Union. Photo: Supplied

A photo of a Canberra firefighter's burnt uniform after a September 2017 incident, supplied by the United Firefighter's Union. Photo: Supplied

He said if a decision wasn't made soon, it would be too late to provide new equipment in the next budget.

"The can gets kicked down the road for another year," he said.

He referenced an incident on September 25, 2017, where the leg of a firefighter's uniform caught alight in a flashover, causing second and third degree burns to 10 per cent of his leg.

Fire & Rescue said neither the firefighter nor his supervisor reported the injuries and the uniform was assessed to have met required standards, but they would not release the final report on the incident due to privacy concerns.

Mr Conville said the firefighter did log the incident and ended up looking after himself.

The union's submission also called for a new aerial pumper and new recruits to run it.

While Fire & Rescue confirmed it was still procuring the pumper, it said staff from the Communications Centre would be transferred over to run it when it was acquired.