Rural firefighters and communities at risk, warn critics
THE Queensland Government has been warned that rural firefighters and outlying communities could be put at risk if the state opts to dump regional "firecom" centres in favour of a giant metropolitan hub.
Critics of the landmark Keelty Review into emergency services warned that the recommendations would sacrifice critical local knowledge.
The review, released on September 10, proposed sweeping reforms to how police, fire crews and ambulance services operate in Queensland.
This included a recommendation to pool all emergency fire calls at hubs in Brisbane, replacing centres currently operating in Rockhampton, Toowoomba and on the Sunshine Coast.
According to Police Minister Jack Dempsey's office, no decision had been made on the reforms but the recommendation would be considered.
Rural Fire Brigade Association Queensland general manager Justin Choveaux said that alone was cause for concern.
The Rural Fire Service Queensland has been educating firecom staff on how best to guide fire crews when a blaze threatens regional areas.
Mr Choveaux said while merging communications might save the government money, local knowledge was desperately needed by the volunteers.
"This might be the most cost effective decision on paper, but it isn't necessarily the best for those protecting communities across the state," Mr Choveaux said.
"That's why the fire service exists - it doesn't exist to protect its corporate identity, it exists to protect the state and the people in it."
Mr Choveaux said the recommendations of an earlier review of rural fire operations - the Malone Review by LNP backbencher and Member for Mirani Ted Malone - needed to be fully implemented.
Some of these are already being rolled out, although how many will depend on how they fit with the Keelty Review.
Mr Malone has an extensive background with the Rural Fire Service.
He declined to be interviewed on Monday.
Mr Choveaux said a campaign would now be run to help protect Rural Fire Service Queensland.