By CRAIG McTEAR
THE sooner Coffs Harbour Fire Station is manned around-the-clock, the better it will be for the community.
That's the verdict of NSW Fire Brigade Employees' Union president, Chris Windsor, who visited the local troops yesterday.
He said the population increase in the city, combined with the growth of businesses and factories, justified the push for a 24-hour station.
In fact, the city is home to the largest light industrial precinct after Sydney and Wollongong.
"Coffs Harbour has progressed to such an extent that it is a real city, and that's good for Coffs," Mr Windsor said.
Coffs Harbour Fire Station, regarded as the busiest between Newcastle and the Queensland border, had 728 callouts last year, a 60 per cent jump since 1999.
Also, the role of firefighters has evolved over the years.
Not only do they fight fires, attend accidents and handle hazardous materials, but they're also heavily involved in fire education in the community.
Which means added pressure on existing resources.
If the Coffs Harbour station became a 24-hour facility, it would get an additional 15 staff.
It would also still rely heavily on the work of the retained firefighters.
"They do a great job," Mr Windsor said.
NSW Fire Brigades has fired in a budget submission to the State Government in support of the proposed station upgrade.
"I can't see why Treasury would say no," Mr Windsor said.