The firefighters’ union has lashed out at the Baird government after a key Blue Mountains station was forced to send its staff to another site just two days after fire ripped through the area.
Due to staffing shortages, the union said firefighters from Katoomba Fire Station were sent to fill gaps at Mt Victoria 20 minutes away, leaving Katoomba temporarily closed on Monday afternoon.
Volunteer firefighters were still on-call but the loss of the permanent local crew followed a weekend blaze that destroyed a house.
“It’s just madness,” said Fire Brigade Employees’ Union (FBEU) secretary Tim Anderson, who blamed the stop-gap measures on budget cuts.
“They’re robbing Peter to pay Paul and shuffling resources around hoping that something won’t happen, but eventually something will and someone will die,” he said.
However both Fire and Rescue NSW and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres have criticised the union’s claims, describing them as fear-mongering and without context.
“The FBEU claims seek to use a tragedy to create unease in a community that is well protected – 24/7 – by a large number of FRNSW and RFS stations, trucks and firefighters,” said a FRNSW spokesperson.
“Should an incident occur that requires additional resources, FRNSW has the capacity to move resources quickly to where are they needed, as we did on Saturday.”
Mr Ayres accused the union of “confusing the public”.
“It’s very easy to create fear during the bush fire season, but the fact remains that Fire & Rescue NSW are responding to fires faster than ever and more firefighters are at work,” he said.