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From the CO - new positions and operational update
Following consultation via the Enterprise Bargaining Implementation Committee (EBIC), CFA and UFU have reached agreement on 79 additional positions that will be created within CFA’s operational workforce. All positions will be advertised tomorrow.
This will see crewing increase to four per shift at Eltham, Wodonga, Sunbury, Pakenham, Wangaratta, Rosebud, Boronia, Cranbourne and Ocean Grove. There will also be additional crewing to assist Corio. Ballarat City and Bendigo will receive additional crewing for Pumper 2. Additional crewing for Morwell’s aerial appliance will be advertised. However, the commencement date will be dependent on infrastructure changes at Morwell Fire Station being complete.
This week's development brings the total number of new positions created this financial year to 112, and the total number of positions created under Project 2016 to 294 (out of 342, as per the Ops Staff Agreement). CFA and UFU will continue to work through priorities for the remaining positions.
The new Eltham Fire Station became operational on 24 December 2015. The hard work by many ensured we met our commitment to open the station before Christmas. I’d especially like to thank Eltham’s Officer in Charge Steve Pitcher and his team for their dedication and support and the broader project team for the key role they played in bringing about this milestone. Eltham’s new station will make protecting the community easier for career staff and volunteers alike.
I’m also very pleased to report that as of 24 December 2015, District 27 which services the City of Latrobe, is now fully operational. An Operations Officer (Critical Infrastructure) and an Operations Officer (Reliever) position will be progressed to complement existing resourcing already in place, and will work with our volunteers, industry and the community to build its capability to prevent and respond to fires in this unique environment.
Cold climate jacket
The Cold Climate Jacket program has been signed off. This will see the allocation of jackets rolled out to the 324 targeted volunteer brigades by the end of 2016. Well done to the project team.
November and December 2015 saw unprecedented weather and increased fire conditions. Since October, 15 Total Fire Ban Days have been declared, with two being for the whole of the state. CFA has responded to some significant fires both in complexity and duration. Most recently, these have included the Scotsburn fire, Barnawartha fire and Wye River - Jamieson Track fire.
The Wye River - Jamieson Track 2,483-hectare fire was started by a lightning strike in dense, inaccessible terrain. Due to strong winds on Christmas Day, the fire impacted Wye River and Separation Creek and 116 homes were destroyed. Both communities, due to the predictions, were evacuated earlier in the day. It is due to these actions, the efforts of emergency services practitioners and those of the community who heeded the warnings and advice, that there were no serious injuries and no loss of life.
In visiting the affected areas I’ve witnessed first-hand the power of community and the spirit and resilience of those who have lost their homes and others not directly affected who have rallied to support friends, neighbours and visitors.
While we may focus on the loss of 139 homes, 52 sheds, thousands of livestock and 22,158 hectares burnt since 1 October 2015, we should acknowledge what has been saved by aggressive first attack, effective utilisation of aircraft and effective warning of the community.
I remind everyone to look after themselves, monitor fatigue and allow time to rest and recharge as there is still a lot of hot weather to come. We’ve seen erratic fire behaviour against relatively moderate Fire Danger Ratings and I expect that this will continue. I stress the importance of blacking out and monitoring wind and weather conditions which can change quickly.
In addition to the major incidents mentioned, CFA attended more than 3,000 other fires; more than 700 accidents/rescue events; 104 emergency medical response calls and over 1,000 false alarms during November and December. I thank everyone; volunteers, career staff and those fulfilling support roles and critical ‘business as usual’ roles for their efforts since I commenced as Chief Officer. Your dedication, passion, commitment and expertise is appreciated and acknowledged.
I also extend my thanks and gratitude to our agency partners. ‘We work as one’ has been successfully tested in the past weeks through systems, processes and our continuing strengthening relationships.