Staff shortages at Richmond fire station on Friday seriously affected Penrith station’s response times to a grass fire which got out of control in Kingswood, damaging adjoining property.
A Penrith fire crew and truck had been relocated to Richmond, leaving other stations to cover the grass fire which burned along Copeland Street, close to Penrith cemetery.
A large shed and a number of vehicles and shipping containers were lost.
Fire Brigade Employees’ Union state secretary Jim Casey said the Penrith crew could have responded within five minutes if they had been at their designated station.
‘‘The first crew, which was from Regentville, arrived in 10 minutes,’’ Mr Casey said.
‘‘If Penrith [firefighters] had been at the Penrith station, they would have responded in half that time and the fire would have been far less severe, and quite possibly contained to the grass.’’
He blamed budget cuts for the situation. ‘‘Crews are being spread out a lot thinner to compensate for the government’s budget cuts,’’ he said.
‘‘For two years this has been happening because stations are short-staffed. The Richmond station does not have a full-time station manager and the position has not been filled in six months.
‘‘It could be said if that position was filled then the Penrith crew wouldn’t have needed to come to Hawkesbury.’’ Penrith MP and Police and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres said moving permanent firefighters and trucks was standard practice, and had been done for decades.
‘‘Operational decisions are made by experienced senior commanders to ensure appropriate response coverage for the community is always maintained,’’ Mr Ayres said. ‘‘In regards to Friday’s fire, a crew from Regentville was the first on scene, arriving within Fire and Rescue’s target response time.
‘‘When it became clear that the fire might impact on buildings, additional resources were sent to the fire including crews from Cranebrook, Dunheved and St Marys.
‘‘At the height of the fire there were 100 firefighters and 25 trucks on scene.