The government has been told it can cut senior management from the fire service to save money, and replace firefighters with trained civilians in the triple-0 call centre to solve cultural tensions.
The recommendations, which have not been acted upon, will help inform a significant plan to overhaul the Emergency Services Agency, designed partly to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and eliminate duplication.
A confidential review of ACT Fire and Rescue, conducted by British fire chief Mark Jones, has told the government there is "considerable scope" to reduce managerial costs, and to shift increased responsibility to senior fire officers.
It found this could be done without impacting on risk or service delivery.
The review said that maintaining a management structure designed for the most testing emergencies could be described as "extravagant", particularly when such events are becoming less frequent.
That has prompted concern from the ACT opposition, who fear the government is forgetting the lessons it learnt during the 2003 bushfires.
Opposition emergency services spokesman Brendan Smyth said it was common for an immense buildup of staff and resources following a disaster, only for it to slowly be cut back years later.
"The problem with this sort of approach is that when a bushfire does occur, we don't have the resources in place to meet that," Mr Smyth said.
"What this government must do is not forget the lessons of 2003."
The review of ACT Fire and Rescue still being considered, and is, at this stage, simply a set of recommendations the government can consider as part of its broader "strategic reform agenda" for ESA.
ESA Commissioner Dominic Lane said on Sunday that no decisions had been made to cut ACT Fire and Rescue management, and highlighted the additional $15.6 million funding given to his organisation in the last ACT budget, and the $60 million provided for new and upgraded fire stations.
But Mr Lane confirmed the incoming ACT Fire and Rescue chief officer would be asked to undertake a "strategic review" of the service's command structure.
"The government is not reducing ACT Fire & Rescue capability. It has not made any decisions to reduce management," he said.
"The objective of the ESA Strategic Reform Agenda is to ensure ESA continues to provide the highest standards of emergency services to the ACT community through cohesive operations, a collaborative management team and a unified executive."
Another significant recommendation made to the government relates to the cultural problems within the ESA's triple-0 call centre.
Currently, firefighters man the phones for ACT Fire and Rescue, but sit alongside trained civilian ambulance call takers.
There have been significant tensions in the triple-0 room, known as the ComCen, and firefighters have previously pushed for a separate call centre.
Mr Lane pledged to address the problems in November 2013, and commissioned a review.
That confidential review, prepared by Leading Emergency Services, has confirmed deep cultural problems remain, and recommends replacing firefighters with civilian call-takers, similar to those who work for the ACT Ambulance Service.
The firefighters would then be returned to the frontline.
It proposes creating a singly agency facility staffed by civilians, who are supported by service-based experts.
That, the review says, would reduce the friction between the two groups and improve productivity.
Mr Smyth said there had always been difficulties with the triple-0 call centre, and they should have been resolved much sooner.
"We really have to fix that culture problem to really make sure we get it right," he said.
"One of the failures of 2003 was the inability to cope with an overwhelming number of calls, but here we are 12 years later and you've still got problems in the communications unit.
"This is a dramatic failure of this government."
Mr Lane confirmed the review had looked at jurisdictions with civilian call takers.
But he said a decision was yet to be made about the future of the ComCen.
"The ESA is now getting on with the job of deciding the way to move forward to provide the best and most efficient service for the ACT community," he said.
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