We have been lucky to speak to one of the brave volunteers (pseudonym Fred, a 25yr veteran in the RFS) who has spoken out about the utter incompetence of the administration within fire services HQ. You should be furious after reading this. You are being lied to and the media is complicit by failing to do basic investigative journalism.
Instead of all of the glowing praise being heaped on the senior management of the fire services, here are some brutal comments that contradict the current media narrative.
What you will read are some of the direct quotes from our conversation which throw more light on some of our earlier suspicions.
FNF Media has been questioning the competence of senior management in the HQs. We have been demanding that the fire services are thoroughly investigated when this is all over. At the moment senior fire management teams are being deified in ways that almost seek to make them exempt from any wrongdoing. If there is nothing to hide, they should welcome the clean bill of health that would arise from an audit.
Putting it down to climate change, as some of our former chiefs suggest, is just way too convenient a scapegoat to cover up for what looks more and more like poor management practice.
We noted last week that budgets and salaries have been rising at NSWRFS, but equipment levels falling. How is that that with $140mn extra dollars last fiscal year, a 78% jump on 2014/15 levels, can this be? Fred mentioned,
“there has been a massive effort in restricting bushfire hazard reduction burning by the fire services. Also, the senior management of the fire services act like a mafia. I don’t know how they get away with it.”
Scarily we’re told that no resources are being refused. Unfortunately, we have evidence to the contrary. Fred said,
“Premier, Minister and Commissioner all lied when they said that all resources were being used and no offers of assistance were ever refused.”
Fred has asked FNF Media to withhold the proof of the conversation with RFS and it is damning, to say the least. It is toxic.
Recall our post which discussed the frustration within the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association (VFFA) with respect to restricted burning. The VFFA said,
“Hazard reduction is the only proven management tool rural firefighters have to reduce the intensity and spread of bushfires and this has been recognised in numerous bushfire enquires since the Stretton enquiry into the 1939 Victorian Bushfires…The amount of ‘green tape’ we have to go through to get a burn approved is beyond frustrating; says Peter Cannon. The VFFA is calling on the NSW State Government to reduce the amount of green tape involved in planning and conducting hazard reductions so that our Volunteer Firefighters can get on with the job of conducting fire prevention works in the cooler months to prevent the inevitable summer bushfire disasters…Remember that it’s far more cost-effective, say around 66 to 100 times more cost-efficient, to prevent wildfires through hazard reduction than it is to have reactionary fire response, which is what we have at the moment. With the great number of lost homes and decreasing property values through these wildfires, what then will the total fiscal amount be…when it could have all been prevented by effective Hazard reduction!”
Fred’s comments with us sing the same tune.
“They spend such huge amounts of money on tech, equipment and salaries and yet achieve bugger all bushfire hazard reduction works. If I had half the budget of the FRNSW Bushfire Section I could do at least 4 times more burning. They are so inefficient.”
“My volunteer brigade did Zero burning last 12 months…volunteers are having to purchase their own uniforms and PPE… RFS senior management lies constantly and the media go along with them.”
In the most recent fires, Fred commented,
“The state government, RFS and FRNSW all declined our assistance, even as homes burned down with no trucks to save them.”
“The back burn on Bells Line of Road SW of Mt Wilson. It ended of pushing East and took out Mt Wilson and then went into the Blue Mountains National Park. Media reported that fire as part of Gospers Mountain but it was a wholly separate fire lit by RFS in exactly the wrong spot.”
This is commentary from an experienced veteran volunteer with a quarter-century of under his belt, not some rookie with a garden hose who will just get in harm’s way. Yet Fred’s well-trained services were refused. Period. We have the evidence. He went further,
“Very poor use of available volunteers. 70,000 are on the books but less than 7,000 are being used????”
“They [management] should be investigated and sacked. Not given medals and bigger budgets.”
“I am hoping I will be a witness in the inquiries or Royal Commission after…This all needs to come out.”
“I have emails from RFS and FRNSW already shared with the Minister and Premier. They are well aware of the problem. But the RFS Commissioner is like Santa at Christmas right now.”
Will our mainstream media going out of its way to ask probing questions instead of having the likes of Karl Stefanovic rant on morning TV about the PM’s shortcomings while blowing wind up the backside of the fire chief? Apparently not. Too simple to report on easy clickbait, devoid of any facts.
Let us pray that when all the fires have died down, the post-mortem avoids arse covering and blame-shifting. Although we know that is exactly what will happen.
Remember climate change is an irrelevant argument as we pointed out in our study here. FR NSW mentions the word ‘climate change‘ once in the last 6 years of annual reports. Even then it was in reference to fire stations voluntarily switching off non-essential lighting for Earth Hour. Hardly pointing to detailed statistics derived from their own experience. On the flip side, the Victorian CFA mentions ‘inclusion‘ 56 times in the last 6 years of annual reports. Priorities don’t seem to lie where the core business lies.
Money does not seem to be the major problem even though a further $2bn is being committed for relief. It is increasingly looking like mismanagement. If the volunteers, who do it without compensation, are screaming at the desk jockeys who orchestrate the controlled burn-offs (or lack thereof) doesn’t it make one curious as to why the fires got so ridiculously out of control?
We have every right to be angry. We should settle for nothing less. FNF Media is astonished at the generosity of the $40m in donations raised for bushfire relief. However, we worry that the fire services don’t appear to have a lot of skill in allocating vital funds where needed if volunteers like Fred are to be believed and as we wrote in previous discussions. Given we have the proof, he should be and the cover-up will be found out.