Aerial footage of the ferocious fire that tore through a home in Murwillumbah last month.
Aerial footage of the ferocious fire that tore through a home in Murwillumbah last month.

'Enough resources used' in Murwillumbah house fire

THE Fire Brigades Employment Union says the "right amount of resources" were thrown at the fire which tore through a home in Murwillumbah last month.

The Tweed Daily News reported last week that on September 14, two Rural Fire Service trucks just two minutes from the scene did not receive a call for assistance and sat idle as the family home burned.

Instead, Fire and Rescue NSW crews from Tweed Heads and Kingscliff were called to assist, about 25 minutes from the scene.

At the time, RFS volunteer Joe Frankland said there was a turf war between Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service and questioned how much damage was done in that extra 25 minutes.

But Fire Brigade Employees' Union state secretary Leighton Drury said there were a number of reasons why the RFS was not called.

Mr Drury said RFS trucks did not have automatic vehicle locators like Fire and Rescue trucks, which meant crews were unaware of where RFS trucks were and if they were available.

"The RFS don't have these locators so we don't know where their trucks are or if their stations are staffed," he said.

"To call for backup we need to know the truck's capability, whether it's a tanker or has breathing apparatus so you can resource incidents appropriately."

 

Firefighters extinguish a ferocious fire which tore through a home in Murwillumbah on Friday afternoon.
Firefighters extinguish a ferocious fire which tore through a home in Murwillumbah on Friday afternoon.

He said Emergency Services Minister Troy Grant had promised to employ a full-time RFS liaison officer within the FRNSW communications centre to solve the problem, but was yet to make good on the agreement.

Mr Drury said training was another issue which stopped RFS volunteers from being called, as asbestos turned the Murwillumbah fire into a HAZMAT incident.

He said the trucks at the RFS in Murwillumbah were more suited to bushfires.

"Our retained firefighters are trained to a certain basic level in structure firefighting, HAZMAT, hose handling, basic life support and incident management," he said.

"With RFS, we don't know if we'll get enough breathing apparatus operators whereas all FRNSW firefighters are trained for that. There was asbestos in that incident as well which made it even more difficult."

Mr Drury said he understood the RFS volunteer's frustrations as "it's their town and they want to protect it".

"I've been a firefighter for 20 years and you always want to help with fires and protect your community, that's why they signed up and volunteered, it's why the guys do the job they do," he said.

"But the right amount of resources were assigned to that job."