A Fire Cover Review currently under way could see as many as eight district volunteer rural fire brigades shut down.
A Fire Cover Review currently under way could see as many as eight district volunteer rural fire brigades shut down. Jacklyn Wagner

Rural fire brigades may go

EIGHT volunteer rural fire brigades across Lismore, Kyogle and Casino are on the verge of collapse and may be shut down, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) manager for the Northern Rivers, Michael Brett, has warned.

He said the RFS was currently conducting a standard Fire Cover Review across the three local government areas and would be forced to shut brigades that were no longer viable. It currently has 48 brigades.

“We will have to look at them economically and determine if they are viable. Each truck costs $200,000 to replace,” Mr Brett told a Lismore City Council workshop.

“We are looking fairly closely at this. It’s a hard process because there is history there and there’s politics.”

The RFS has previously closed the Broadwater brigade, despite the size of the community, because it had become unviable.

“We are being forced down this path, but you have to remember that when these brigades were formed it was in the days of the horse and carriage and our trucks are faster so they can get there a lot quicker,” he said.

The review will help the service determine where resources should be allocated over the next 10 years.

“The positive is that it will identify those brigades currently floundering,” Mr Brett said.

His comments were made as he outlined plans to centralise the service’s operations and administration for the three council areas at a new $2.5 million purpose-built headquarters next to Casino Airport.

It is part of a proposal for one council – most likely Richmond Valley – to become the administrative council for the fire service.

At the moment each council has a similar service level agreement with the Rural Fire Service that the service wants to streamline into one agreement to reduce time and costly duplication.

Mr Brett said it was logical that the Richmond Valley Council would become the service’s ‘administrative’ council as the new headquarters would be located in its area.

Once the building is constructed early next year, the service will relocate its full operation and centralise all its facilities.

“In the real world nothing really changes in the way we do things – our volunteers should not notice any great change,” Mr Brett said.

“There are some positives and some negatives, but as a whole you can see some major positives.

“Currently, what we are doing we do three times for three councils. It makes sense to start bringing it together in one operation.”

“At the end of the day a council will pay all the bills and there will be one budget instead of three with all councils making a contribution.”

Under the plan, existing facilities may be rationalised, but Mr Brett said the service would establish ‘shop fronts’ to remain accessible to volunteers and the public.

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