News & Media

Reports of Fiskville links with cancers

By: Euan Ferguson

  11.00 AM 12 December, 2011

Views: 4658

All of us, CFA members past and present and our families, have been shocked and saddened by reports in the Herald Sun last week that link past practices at Fiskville to various forms of cancer. Our foremost thoughts are with those CFA members who are or have been a victim of cancer and to the families of CFA members have been cancer victims. For many of us at CFA, Fiskville has been a big part of our lives. We've lived there, worked there, trained there, met there, celebrated there and we've mourned there. Many CFA members have raised their families there. Fiskville is, and has been for so many years, an integral part of the origins, history and culture of the CFA. Fiskville is close to all of our hearts. Fiskville is also a big part of the local community in the Ballan area. Many locals have been or are employees, contractors and neighbours. It is natural that many in the community are also sharing our concern and our pain.

The issues raised by the newspaper reports are complex. It appears that many of the allegations are about matters that occurred a significant time ago, in the 1970's, 1980's and perhaps the early 1990's. CFA is still assembling reports from that period. The fact is that we have not yet located nor have we analysed all of the facts and documents on this matter. These matters will be the subject of an investigation to be led by Prof Rob Joy who is a former deputy chairman of the Environment Protection Authority. That process will take time. CFA CEO Mick Bourke has committed that the findings of this investigation will be made public.

CFA takes the health, safety and welfare of our members, of the community and the protection of the environment very seriously. When we became aware of the nature and extent of the allegations we quickly set up a team to establish health and welfare arrangements, we contacted key people featured in the newspaper reports and we began a thorough search of our records. CFA is treating these allegations extremely seriously. We are determined to deal with them properly. We owe this to all those who have been, are, and continue to be associated with Fiskville. Some of the allegations date back up to 30 years. Back then, fire services (and the community at large) did not have the occupational health and safety focus that we have now. Back then the medical knowledge around chemical safety, (that we now take for granted), was fledgling and awareness was only just emerging. Firefighting is an inherently dangerous activity. In order that our members are trained for critical fuel fire incidents, we simulate fuel fire suppression and management. Even today, firefighters continue to burn hydrocarbons in training. As with many fire training establishments, CFA has moved to adopt clean burning gas fired training props that simulate fuel fires. These days, there are environmental and safety controls in place to eliminate and reduce exposure to contaminants, and these are supported by environmental monitoring. We have no evidence to suggest that there is any risk to those living, working and visiting Fiskville today. This was confirmed by an initial review by a hygienist this week. We hope that this provides confidence to CFA members that Fiskville is a safe workplace. WorkSafe Victoria has also inspected the site this week and we are also working with the EPA.

We recognise that many CFA members are in many ways, still rebuilding from the fires of 2009. We urge all CFA members and their families, past and present, to be confident of the organisation you are a member of. We will get through this. In doing so, we will offer as much support to those who are victims of this situation as we can. The events of last week have raised questions that we cannot answer. Some questions may be answered for some time. Let this not dent our commitment to a great organisation that is serving a great and important cause for all Victorians. Each and every one of us is a part of the CFA family. Now is the time to take care for each other and to focus on the job at hand - protecting lives and property and preparing for a busy fire season.

## Contact the Fiskville project team at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone the ‘Investigation and Information’ hot line (1800 628 616).

Latest updates on the Fiskville investigation will be postedon CFA Connect in the news story Fiskville investigation updates.

"Before you can inspire with emotion you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you yourself must believe." - Sir Winston Churchill

Last Updated: 10 December 2015