Community assured fire services will not be affected by merger

By Liz Mellino

From today, Shepparton Country Fire Authority professional firefighters will fall under the umbrella of a new organisation — Fire Rescue Victoria.

The merger — which will bring together all existing Metropolitan Fire Brigade and CFA career firefighters — will see current Shepparton CFA volunteers become a fully stand alone brigade.

While the move has sparked criticism by many of the 54 000 volunteer firefighters and community advocates across the state, CFA commander and officer in charge of the Shepparton Fire Station Travis Harris said the merger would have no effect on the services they provide to the community.

“The community will not notice any difference to the service we provide to them, the only thing they will notice is some of the trucks will now have a different badge, a Fire Rescue Victoria Badge, as opposed to the CFA logo that they're used to seeing,” he said.

“The uniforms will also be different ... we have a fantastic relationship at Shepparton between career firefighters and volunteers and that will continue — that is the important thing.”

Mr Harris said the merger would see a minimum staffing of 10 career firefighters assigned per shift.

These FRV members will then call on the support of the CFA volunteer brigade when necessary depending on the incident, a process which Mr Harris said already occurred.

“Volunteers don’t get paged to all calls at the moment — Shepparton is a very busy brigade, they receive approximately 1200 calls a year, that would put a very large strain on volunteer-only brigades,” he said.

“Volunteers would attend approximately 400 calls a year and they will continue to do that.”

State Member for Northern Victoria and CFA volunteer Tania Maxwell said she joined other CFA volunteers across the state in being "disheartened" and "concerned" by the merger.

Ms Maxwell said volunteers feared the reforms would turn the CFA into a "second class" service with budget concerns and a lack of access to future training.

“Volunteers feel let down and unappreciated by this entire process and it is heartbreaking. For many of them, this may be the last straw,” she said.

Mr Harris assured the Shepparton community they would not notice any difference in the services provided by the local brigade.

“We will continue to be co-located in the same building — both at our current site in Maude St and also when we do move to our new site in Archer St, hopefully early next year,” he said.

“The CFA and FRV will be operating out of the same building exactly the same as they do today, tomorrow and onwards.”