Category Archives: Victoria

VIC | MFB lodges application to terminate enterprise agreements

The MFB today lodged an application with the Fair Work Commission to terminate the current operational enterprise agreements with the firefighters’ union.

MFB Acting CEO Russell Eddington said the current agreements, which expired in September 2013, contained unlawful content that makes them unworkable.

“These clauses mean we can’t deploy resources to best meet changing emergency conditions and we can’t recruit externally,” Mr Eddington said.

“After 12 months of bargaining with the union we are still far apart and it has become clear that we are unable to negotiate around these unlawful clauses,” he said.

“Recent court cases regarding the CFA and Parks Victoria, have supported MFB’s position that clauses in the current award are unlawful.

Mr Eddington said that if successful in terminating the current agreements, the MFB would maintain firefighters’ current pay, core entitlements and general operational framework.

However, he said terminating the agreements would allow the organisation to revert to the consultation requirements under the firefighters Modern Award rather than the arduous and impractical requirements currently in place.

“We have been forced to go to the Fair Work Commission just to move a fire truck from one station to the other. At the Hazelwood mine fire we had to bring in firefighters from South Australia just to be able to use our own advanced equipment because we haven’t reached agreement with the union to commission this vehicle.

“These are management decisions and it seriously detracts from the efficiency of this rate-payer funded service when we have senior management tied up in the Fair Work Commission for weeks simply to implement decisions that ensures the community is best served,” Mr Eddington said.

“The MFB has had a proposal on the table since April last year that maintains core entitlements, such as 10/14 rostering, rest and recline, and annual leave.  It offers pay rises resulting in firefighters being among the highest paid in the country and is designed to modernise the service and position it for a future of ever-increasing collaboration with other emergency services across the State,” he said.

“Our firefighters are dedicated, professional people who do a remarkable job for our State and we need progressive enterprise agreements to build our organisation for them, as well as the community.

“Today is not about the current bargaining process, it is about asking the Fair Work Commission to relieve us of an outdated and unworkable agreement that limits the MFB’s potential to grow and develop.”

The MFB expects the Fair Work Commission to set a hearing date within six weeks.

VIC | Hazelwood mine fire declared safe

After 45 days of intensive firefighting the Hazelwood open cut mine fire has been officially declared ‘safe’, and management handed back to the mine operators, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said today.

Mr Lapsley said today was a major milestone and marked the end of a long and difficult time for the Morwell community and firefighters.

“When an incident is declared safe it means fire authorities are confident it no longer poses any threat to people or communities,” he said.

“The open cut mine is officially being handed back to GDF Suez with today the last shift with Victorian and interstate fire services physically working at the mine.

“The community may still see a few puffs of smoke as the mine operators continue to work on extinguishing small hot spots, but CFA will continue to support GDF Suez with management support and advice and the local CFA will be liaising closely with the mine owners, and be on hand to help if needed.”

The northern batters, the area that was closest to Morwell and one of the most fire intense areas that put smoke and ash over the town for many weeks, was declared safe on Friday.  Management of the mine has been progressively handed back to the mine operators.

“This fire has for more than five weeks caused significant concern to the communities of Morwell and the Latrobe Valley and the health concerns of both the community and firefighters have added an extra layer of complexity to the fire fight,” Mr Lapsley said.

“This has been an extremely challenging fire and we have to acknowledge the hard work of Victorian and interstate fire services and incident management personnel throughout the past 45 days.”

More than 7000 individual firefighters have worked through the mine, and at the peak of the fire more than 500 people were working directly and indirectly on the fire and its effect.

On peak days:

• 123.8 million litres of water was used per day and recirculated by ground crews and aircraft to fight the fire. That is around 86,000 litres per minute.

• The aircraft that worked on the fire dropped an average of 1540 litres of foam per day on the fire.

• More than 1,000 carbon monoxide tests on emergency services people were done each day of the 45 days.

• Over 300 accommodation bookings each day in Morwell, Traralgon, Moe and Sale for staff from many different agencies working on the mine fire and its effects.

• Staff working at the mine consumed approximately 1500 meals per day.

Victoria | Premier announces independent inquiry into Hazelwood Mine Fire

The following press release was issued by the Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine.

Premier Denis Napthine and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan today announced the establishment of an independent Inquiry into the Hazelwood Mine Fire, the response to and support of the Morwell and affected communities and the emergency response.

The Board of Inquiry will comprise three members and be headed by the Hon Bernard Teague AO. It will be asked to submit its report to the Government by the end of August 2014.

Justice Teague will bring to this Inquiry his extensive experience, which includes having headed the Royal Commission into the Black Saturday bushfires.

The Inquiry will be convened by the end of March. Its Secretariat will be based in Morwell and will be given all necessary resources to fully support the Inquiry.

Dr Napthine said the Government had decided that a Board of Inquiry – with coercive powers similar to a Royal Commission – was the most appropriate legal form for the Inquiry.

“I have directed the establishment of this Inquiry to give Victorians confidence that the Government is focused on ensuring community safety and recovery. The Inquiry will enable us to review the mine operations and the emergency response to the fire. The Inquiry will also cover health and environmental responses and the response to and support of the affected communities,” Dr Napthine said.

Dr Napthine also thanked everyone involved in fighting the fire and supporting the community.

“I welcome the news that the fire is under control and congratulate all those involved in this work over the last few weeks in addition to agencies and volunteers who have, and continue to, support the community as it recovers,” Dr Napthine said.

“Now is the time for individuals, families, community representatives and businesses to have the opportunity to have their say on how they and their communities have been impacted by the fire, the level of support they received and their views of the emergency response.”

Mr Ryan said the Government had made good on its vow for an open, independent inquiry.

“This inquiry is testament to the Government’s commitment to be open, transparent and straightforward with the community,” Mr Ryan said.

“The Inquiry provides the local community the chance to have its say, and it is important the views of the local community are heard.

“The Government will continue to work with the community and council to get businesses and the community back to full strength as soon as possible.”

The Terms of Reference will be finalised after consultation with Justice Teague and the Solicitor General before being submitted to Governor in Council and made public.

Broadly, the Terms of Reference will examine the regulatory regime which applied to the Hazelwood mine; the adequacy and effectiveness of the emergency response; how the fire started and spread into the mine; and the adequacy of information to and support of the affected communities.

Victoria | Firefighter seriously injured battling grassfire near Rushworth

A CFA volunteer has been injured while fighting a grassfire at Moora, near Rushworth overnight (Friday, 14 March).

The 42 year-old was travelling in the back of CFA tanker when he fell from the truck and was clipped, or run over, by the rear wheels. He was airlifted to Bendigo hospital suffering pelvic injuries and later transferred to the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

The truck was travelling at low-speed off road.

The small grassfire started just after 1am and took around 40 minutes to control.

CFA is supporting the injured member’s family and his brigade colleagues.

CFA will conduct an investigation with the help of Victoria Police. WorkSafe has been notified.

Victoria | CFA thanks Fire and Rescue NSW

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As the complex response to the Hazelwood mine fire rolls on, members from Fire and Rescue New South Wales continue to backfill integrated Victorian fire stations.

Senior station officers report that local crews are getting along like a house on fire with their welcome visitors from the north.

Frankston Fire Station welcomed rotating crews of four and one truck from MFB before NSW stepped up on February 20th. Since then a Bondi pumper has been taking in the sea air of Frankston with a rotating crew of three comprising the NSW equivalent of a station officer, leading firefighter and firefighter.

Senior Station Officer Doug Broom has been knee-deep in the complex rostering required by the Hazelwood response.

“The day-to-day running of the brigade has been a big disjointed,” he says, “but the NSW crews have gone out of their way to be approachable and amenable. They’ve improvised and adapted their procedures to fit our procedures.”

He’s also happy to report that the Victorians are doing very well against NSW on the trivia front.

Shepparton Senior Station Officer Pete Dedman also confirms that Victorian crews have the far superior trivia minds. Unfortunately, however, they have been forced to endure jibes about ‘aerial ping-pong’ from northern rugby supporters.

“We’ve had Rydalmere Pumper 65 at the station,” says Pete, “while Shepp aerial pumper had been stationed at Hazelwood.

“NSW members had to put their names in a ballot to be selected to come down to Victoria so they’re obviously really keen to get here. We’ve had a mix of very experienced officers through to people who’ve been in the job for just six months and some from inner city areas such as The Rocks. They have different systems and structures so it’s been a learning curve for us and them.

“All crews have been extremely accommodating and we’ve achieved what we’ve needed to at fires and rescues. They’re also hopping in to perform duties around the station without hesitation.

“They don’t do emergency medical response at Fire and Rescue NSW and they’ve had the chance to see that in action. I think they were very impressed with the way it went off.

“One interesting incident was a callout to a house explosion and we arrived to find other nearby houses had also lost tiles. One of the senior station officers from NSW said he’d been called out once to a whirly-wind and that’s exactly what this one turned out to be. It was a good lead and we called him The Oracle after that.”

It’s also good news from Bendigo Fire Station where Senior Station Officer Mick Lavery has welcomed a Scania from Randwick and the “great blokes who do whatever you ask of them. They blend in really well.

“We’ve got some blokes at the moment who work at the Sydney headquarters station where they have 24 on shift at any one time. They were at the Barangaroo fire earlier this week so there’s been a lot of variety for them. They’ve all loved it here.”

Meanwhile Bendigo fireys have been busy crewing the snozzles at Mildura and Shepparton and the teleboom in Ballarat.

NSW has been supporting Corio Fire Station since February 20th while the Corio teleboom has been at Hazelwood with a crew of two rotating through every two hours.

“The NSW crews have been fantastic,” says Senior Station Officer Brad McRobb. “They’re good fun to work with and their attitude, willingness to help and work ethic have been excellent. They’ve been happy to come down and we’ve been happy to have them – it’s been the right mix of people and skills.

“It’s a completely different culture in Fire and Rescue NSW – they have about 3500 fulltime firefighters. This has been a chance to learn from each other quite separate to all the lessons learned at Hazelwood.”

Dandenong Fire Station has appreciated the work on station of MFB followed by NSW crews along with the Mt Druitt pumper.

“They wear different shirts but we all do the same job,” says Senior Station Officer Paul Caligari. “They have different turnout systems and radio procedures but they’re working in just so well with us.

“We’ve had some people from NSW who went home and put their names back in the ballot to come down a second time. It’s always a good thing to work away from home and see a different patch and these guys seem to have really enjoyed it.”

Dandenong crews, in turn, remain committed to Hazelwood, looking after hazardous atmospheric monitoring in the mine and in the townships of Morwell, Churchill and Traralgon.

Victoria | Hazelwood Mine Update – 14 March

Fire fight: Long arm excavators are being used to dig up and pull apart hot coal so it can be doused and cooled by fire trucks as the Hazelwood incident enters its final stages.

Regional Controller Steve Warrington today said a number of hot spots still exist below the surface.

“We are focused on eliminating the remaining hot spots – this is one of the last steps in the mine fire fight,” he said.

“Eliminating hot spots by scraping off the surface and digging up coal takes time but we are confident the vast majority of this work will be completed soon.

“There is a lot of heat still in the mine, especially on the floor, and there is still some smoke.”

Mr Warrington said the hot spots were only about 50cm deep in the coal and that any rain would greatly assist the fire fight on the mine floor.

“We are pretty keen to get some rain, we will get a little on Saturday and Sunday night but after that there is none forecast for the period we have been told about,” he said.

Health: Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester today said that, weather permitting, the temporary relocation advice message for at risk people could be lifted within the next few days.

“The air quality unfortunately has not been quite good enough for us over the past couple of days for us to lift our temporary relocating advice, I think we are almost there,” she said.

Dr Lester also told people that, while the ash is not toxic, when cleaning their property they should avoid stirring up the smaller particles by doing wet mopping and dusting, not using blowers and to consider wearing a mask.

Advice on cleaning and how to use a mask is available at the Department of Health website.

View today’s press conference with Regional Controller Steve Warrington and Chief Health Officer Dr Rosemary Lester here:

Victoria | Walking the talk on mine fires

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By bus train or foot, Peter Bullen isn’t stopping at public transport to help to keep the community informed about the Hazelwood open cut mine fire.

Peter is one of 25 Community Liaison Officers (CLO) who spends 12 hours every day visiting local shopping centres, RSLs, bowls clubs, primary schools, and patrolling trains to help answer questions and listen to concerns from the public.

“My role is to get out among the community and find out how they’re feeling about the mine fire, how they’re coping with the smoke and ask them if they have any issues,” Peter said.

“By giving people information and finding solutions to their problems, it empowers them to take responsibility and enables them to look after themselves.”

Since the start of the fire, CLOs have had more than 21,000 conversations with members of the public through 200 organised activities, including door-knocking sessions and mobile information buses.

“We’ve listened to calls from the community for more information, and we’ve been working hard to target more people by visiting popular meeting points, such as local markets, festivals, concerts and even the local pub,” Peter said.

Over the past few weeks, teams of CLOs have pounded the pavement in Morwell, Hazelwood North, Moe, Taralgon, Boolarra and Churchill. The teams typically include about six staff members from a number of agencies such as CFA, MFB, and EPA.

“The role has been challenging but I’ve found it really rewarding – people tell us how they appreciate our presence and overall the feedback has been really positive,” Peter said.

“We’ve been using linescan maps to show people how we are fighting the fire and explain what is being done, and people have been thanking us for what we’re doing.”

In another effort to help the community, CFA has delivered seven new vacuums with HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air filtration) filters to organisations around Morwell for loan, after it was recommended people should avoid the household chore unless their vacuum has the specialised feature.

“We’ve been able to tell people about the vacuums and how they can loan them – they’ve been happy and really well received by the community,” Peter said.

On an average shift, Peter estimates he talks to between 150-200 people and says the service is helping to build confidence in the fire services.

“It’s a long day on your feet and it is tiring at times but you go home feeling like you’ve achieved something worthwhile and you’ve provided information so people can make informed decisions to better protect themselves,” he said.

Victoria | Fireys flying visit to Morwell kids

Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson – CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson – CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson – CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson – CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson - CFA Photographer
Images by Troy Longson – CFA Photographer

Hundreds of primary school children from Morwell had the opportunity to meet the firefighters working at the Hazelwood open cut mine fire today.

Three water-bombing aircraft landed at Ronald Reserve, and were met by more than 700 students from St Vincent’s Primary School, Tobruk Primary School, Morwell Primary School, and Morwell Park Primary School.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the event was a chance for students to learn about the aircraft and thank the firefighters who have worked tirelessly to bring the mine fire under control.

“We know many of these students have seen helicopters flying overhead recently so this gives them the opportunity to see them up close, learn about how they operate and ask questions,” he said.

Two Sikorsky helicopters and a Firebird were on show, along with several trucks from the Traralgon CFA brigade and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.

“It’s been a tough time for the entire community, especially the kids who have had their normal routines disrupted, so we hope this helps them to understand what the emergency services are doing to put the fire out,” Mr Lapsley said.

“It also gives us the opportunity to thank the students and the wider community for their encouragement and support over the past four weeks.”

Latrobe City Council’s mayor, Cr Sharon Gibson said the event was important for the school children to understand the situation that has been faced not only by themselves and the community but by the emergency services and the work that they do.

“With this experience and knowledge, it takes away the element of fear and gives the children understanding so that they can have confidence that they are in safe hands with our fire fighters and emergency services,” Cr Gibson said.

The aircraft returned to the mine for duty following the visit.

Emergency services will conduct more school visits in coming weeks.

Victoria | Kids in cars message not getting through

Ambulance Victoria paramedics are disappointed many parents are ignoring the dangers of leaving children unattended in cars.

Paramedics were called to 620 cases of people locked in cars in the five months September 2013 – January 2014. Of those 99 people needed treatment by paramedics, with 24 taken to hospital.

Almost two-thirds of the 620 triple zero calls reporting someone locked in a car involved a child aged under 13.

Surprisingly, it’s estimated one third of calls involved an adult locked in a car. These include the elderly and people with conditions which prevent them letting themselves out of the car.

Although summer is over, Ambulance Victoria Group Manager Brett Drummond warns people not to be complacent.

‘The temperature will be in the low 30s across much of Victoria tomorrow,’ Mr Drummond said.

‘It doesn’t have to be a scorching hot day for the car to quickly heat up. Tests by Ambulance Victoria found that even on a 29-degree day the inside of a car can reach 44 degrees within 10 minutes and hit 60 degrees within 20 minutes.

‘There’s been a lot of media coverage and advertising over summer warning about the dangers of leaving children in cars so it’s disappointing that we’ve had more than 600 calls to people locked in a car in the last five months.

‘Tragically there have been cases of children dying in hot cars in Victoria in recent years and it’s not worth risking leaving your children in a car.

Mr Drummond said accidents where keys were locked in the car with a child were common, while other cases were deliberate acts.

‘Some people think they can just duck into the shop and leave their child but there’s a risk they will be delayed and it’s a risk that’s not worth taking,’ he said.

‘It’s also common for keys to be accidentally locked in the car with the child. About 23 per cent of cases occurred outside a house. We urge parents to be mindful and keep the keys in their hand while they are getting children and shopping in and out of the car.’

The figures also reveal in the period between 1st September and 31st January
• January was the busiest month, with more than 200 calls – an average of six calls per day
• 44% of calls involving children aged under 13 occurred between 11am and 3pm
• Almost three-quarters of calls were to car parks, streets or public places
• 23% of calls occurred at home

Victoria | Blue is the new green for Ambulance CERT volunteers

Ambulance Victoria Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) have changed from wearing green uniforms to blue uniforms.

More than 400 CERT volunteers from 28 teams operate across Victoria with an opportunity for another team being formed in the future.

They are a vital piece in the state’s medical response capacity, volunteering to help people in communities.

The CERT’s familiar green uniforms have been replaced by blue uniforms, similar to those worn by paramedics and Ambulance Community Officers (ACOs). They retain their familiar green in the badges on the uniform.

Grampians Regional Manager Greg Leach said while CERTs changed their uniforms, their vital first responder role will remain the same.

‘CERT volunteers are the human connection between our communities and the health system on a larger scale,’ he said.

‘We rely on CERT volunteers to help in their communities where ambulance branches are some distance apart. They are dispatched at the same time as paramedics, and provide basic emergency care until an ambulance arrives.

‘These people are real heroes of our communities. They carry on with their ordinary lives and yet they are trained to make a real difference and answer the call when required,’ Mr Leach said.

If you are interested in becoming a CERT volunteer please contact 1800 733 574.