Long shifts limit availability of volunteer fire crews

VOLUNTEER brigade members say “exceptionally long” shifts fighting fires has dissuaded many from offering their services on multiple days.

A number of firefighters involved in tackling the Stonyford fires near Cobden this week have told The Standard that 14-hour shifts prevented many from volunteering on consecutive days.

Firefighters were asked to either work a day shift stretching between 6am and 8pm or an evening shift from 8pm to 6am, a system referred to by brigade administrators as a 14/10 roster.

Paid firefighters have the same system under the CFA/UFU operational staff enterprise agreement with a paid lunch break on-scene.

One Colac region volunteer said dairy farmers were reluctant to work 14-hour shifts because the timing disrupted both morning and evening milking sessions.

“The problem with the timing is that you have to leave your vehicles behind at the nearest town, so you’re stuck at the fire for the entire 14 hours,” said the volunteer, who declined to be named.

“A lot of farmers would happily volunteer for eight-hour shifts. People can work their morning or night-time (milking sessions) around that.”

A CFA spokesman said the organisation’s standard shift was 12 hours for all personnel, including volunteers. 

“The CFA not only values the contribution of its volunteers, but acknowledges it could not carry out its mission to protect lives and property without them,” he said.

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