East Bank chainsaw entrapment fire threat
By CRAIG McTEAR
PETER Morgan says lives are on the line in a dispute between the East Bank Bushfire Brigade and Rural Fire Service (RFS) management.
Mr Morgan, who has been a volunteer with the brigade near Coramba for nine years, says the RFS has refused to replace a chainsaw stolen four years ago from a truck in the East Bank fire shed.
"We were told there's no money in the budget for a chainsaw," Mr Morgan said.
"We asked what happens in the event of entrapment on the firefront ? if a tree comes down and we can't get out, or get to residents to save them.
"They said the group captain would be the one to bring us a chainsaw, even though we have a member accredited to use one.
"But that's a ridiculous situation. We need a chainsaw on our truck instead of waiting around for someone to bring us one.
"Not only does it threaten our lives and residents who might be needing our help, it also puts at risk the person who has to drive in through the fire with the chainsaw.
"Because 80 per cent of our brigade area is bush, with houses and cottages within that scrub, we're constantly faced with the scenario of trees coming down and blocking our path in a fire, and possibly trapping us.
"So it's vital we have immediate access to a chainsaw.
"The RFS says there are 46 chainsaws in service in the Coffs Harbour and Bellingen areas, but this is nowhere near enough."
Mr Morgan said the group captain who was responsible for the chainsaw and other back-up equipment for firefighters in the area had now had that equipment removed from his truck, making the situation even more precarious.
He said the East Bank brigade had also applied last year for a water tank, a bore and a pump to be installed near their fire shed, for use by all volunteer members in the event of fire, and at no cost to the RFS.
However, RFS headquarters in Coffs Harbour had refused to support the application.
Brigade members had also complained their fire shed had no toilets, no drinking water, and no shower for volunteers to use after fighting a fire.
"We have male and female members of all ages, and if they want to go to the toilet during our meetings, they have to use the side of the shed," Mr Morgan said.
"In my view, these are important workplace issues, and WorkCover and the RFS needs to sort out this grey area."