The decision to close the Mt Gellibrand fire tower on the eve of bushfire season has been described as a "complete disaster" by Polwarth MP Richard Riordan.
However, the CFA assured the community there would be no impact to its ability to respond to emergencies and protect lives and property.
The tower is in need of a $300,000 upgrade, Mr Riordan says, and the decision to decommission the tower would leave volunteer firefighters - which the region was totally reliant on - "high and dry".
He said a report that found that the tower was in need of critical maintenance had been ignored for three years.
An engineer's report in 2017 found the tower required an upgrade or replacement but a new report says it was no longer safe for use.
"These guys are putting their lives on the line, for $300,000 it's just putting all sorts of people at risk," he said.
"We only have to think back to Ash Wednesday, which was so devastating."
Mr Riordan said the talk was that the grass growth in the region hadn't been seen since 1977.
"This is the one year we don't need our Western District plains abandoned," he said.
"We are all farmer and small-town volunteers for our entire region, It's the most flammable part on the face of the earth. With the Otways and Western District plains, there is no where else more fire prone than us."
Mr Riordan said having eyes on the region was "absolutely critical".
A COVID-safe rally will be held on Friday at 1pm to highlight their issue with volunteer firefighters, council representatives and state MPs expected to attend, he said. The logistics of the location is yet to be determined.
Mr Riordan said the tower was the linchpin that enabled the fire towers in the Otways, and others to the east and west, to work effectively, providing the triangulation needed to spot fires. Without the central Mount Gellibrand tower, he said it effectively became "useless" and left a "huge void".
"They've just come out on the eve of literally the fire season and said 'sorry guys, you can't use the tower, so what we're going to do is use your mobile phone and internet connection'," he said.
"What possible hope have communities from Cressy to Rokewood, Derrinallum, Lismore, right across Western Victoria, what hope have they got when the phones don't work and the internet doesn't work?"
Mr Riordan said Beeac, at the foot of Mt Gellibrand, struggled to get reception in the main street.
He said on the critical fire days it was not uncommon for the power to go out, visibility to be reduced and spotter planes unable to get in the sky.
"The tower is the one constant that everyone can rely on with two-way radios," he said.
Mr Riordan said that for CFA head office in Melbourne to say to hard working volunteers "use your moble phones", "we can put a drone up" was "just ridiculous".
He said there were plans to put up more spotter planes but volunteers point out that the days they were most worried about were the days you can't put planes in the air.
"The cost of two days of aeroplane flying would fix the damned tower," he said.
A CFA spokesperson said they were in the process of planning other ways to supplement coverage using aerial detection flights and there were other towers nearby which have vision across the general area Mr Gellibrand covers.
The CFA spokesperson said the health and safety of members was its number one priority.
"CFA will work with our members, partner agencies and stakeholders in the area to understand the implications of not using Mt Gellibrand Fire Tower this season and planning for fire detection in the area," the spokesperson said.
Mr Riordan said he had real concerns that other fire towers such as Mount Porndon near Pomborneit and others across the south-west were at risk too.
"If the maintenance neglect has been as bad with the others as with Mt Gellibrand. These are in high wind environments, they're open to a lot of wear and tear," he said.
The MP called on the government and CFA to make a commitment that the other towers weren't about to close as well.
Mr Riordan said the government had been handing out money "like lolly water" to the new Fire Services Victoria, and for the much-needed $290 million Great Ocean Road upgrade.
"If we have a fire that gets out because we haven't got our fire tower in place, it's not much good having roads fixed up for tourists if the tourists have got nothing to see because it's all burnt," he said.
"There's a huge dose of reality needed here immediately."
Fire towers are used for smoke sightings, particularly in remote areas, the CFA spokesperson said, however with mobile phones, other advanced technology and vigilant community members and the travelling public, CFA doesn't just rely on fire towers for early detection of fires.
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