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Victorian fire-fighters trade allegations in -

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Reporter: Rachael Brown

ELEANOR HALL: In Victoria fire-fighters have been publicly airing allegations of a turf war.

The fire-fighters union has accused the Country Fire Authority of stopping metropolitan
fire-fighters from helping to control the blazes that claimed 208 lives.

The United Firefighters Union says it will tell the Royal Commission that the State's fire-fighting
resources were not properly deployed and it's calling for the issue to be investigated immediately,
saying the fire season is far from over.

In Melbourne, Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: The United Firefighters Union says parochialism hindered the State's bushfire
response.

PETER MARSHALL: The resources that were on duty that day, some of the stations in particular in
region 14 CFA and region 8 sat in those fire stations all day while large sections of the community
within their area burned.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Union's national secretary Peter Marshall is quick to point out he doesn't think
the CFA bungled the fire fight, but says it could have thrown more resources at it.

Mr Marshall says a decision by the CFA not to deploy up to 1200 professional fire-fighters to the
blazes may have cost lives.

He says for example a CFA incident controller at Alexandra told an MFB crew (Metropolitan Fire and
Emergency Services Board) it wouldn't be used.

PETER MARSHALL: The statement was made 'not over my dead body' and indeed the MFB commander
reported to his crew that he was made very clear that they were not wanted.

RACHAEL BROWN: What was the sentiment among the crew when they were told that?

PETER MARSHALL: Well look, I mean people want to help. They are paid by the community. They have
trained all their life. They are not interested whether it's CFA territory or MFB territory. They
just want to help the community.

RACHAEL BROWN: And you say there was a similar incident at Wandong? An MFB taskforce was held back
and when it was finally deployed, CFA fire-fighters on the ground said where have you been, we've
been waiting ages for you? We needed you?

PETER MARSHALL: There was an incident along those lines as we were instructed in Wandong but the
specific details will be submitted to the Royal Commission.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Marshall says residents don't care which service stops a wildfire burning their
house down and he says he can't wait for a royal commission's findings because Victoria could find
itself in a similar precarious position this summer.

He admits the union has since 1956 been pushing for a merger of the State's fire services, but he
denies he's using the current climate for political point scoring.

PETER MARSHALL: You'll have another fire next week and the same things happen that happened
recently. It is, I'm not going to sit back and remain silent on that - that is wrong.

RACHAEL BROWN: Callers to talkback radio this morning however thought the union's claims were
inappropriate.

TALKBACK CALLER: The professionals and the volunteers worked incredibly well together until you get
an incident like this and people like Mr Marshall come up because they want to raise their profile
and it sets one against the other.

TALKBACK CALLER 2: They are not matters that should be aired now. I've still got friends and
neighbours to be buried. There is still an awful lot of hurt in the community.

RACHAEL BROWN: The CFA's deputy chief officer Steve Warrington says he understands the frustration
of some fire-fighters but he says crews were deployed appropriately.

STEVE WARRINGTON: I understand the frustrations I've got to say. If you're sitting back at, you
know, Dandenong fire station or Sunshine fire station and you're watching the news and you're
seeing houses burnt down, well the reality is that Dandenong and Sunshine fire stations, we are
still required to provide a service.

RACHAEL BROWN: He says crews without the right trucks or expertise in fighting wildfires were used
for asset protection or on standby in other communities across the State.

STEVE WARRINGTON: There's two distinct types of fire-fighting required here and at times the fires
hit towns and indeed we've used and will continue to use both CFA career staff and MFB career staff
in fighting those fires.

RACHAEL BROWN: Mr Warrington found himself in a heated debate on local radio this morning when he
told the union's Peter Marshall he'd be doing the same thing next time.

STEVE WARRINGTON: For instance in your Greenvale example we'd probably deploy Greenvale to a town
to do asset protection and we would ask the MFB would help CFA by putting an MFB truck in their
base station...

PETER MARSHALL: Why didn't that happen on the day?

STEVE WARRINGTON: And they've done that in the past...

PETER MARSHALL: Why didn't that happen on the day?

STEVE WARRINGTON: And I am sure they are happy to do that in the future.

RACHAEL BROWN: The Victorian Premier John Brumby says he's not aware of any issues with crew
deployment but says there is a time and a place for its investigation .

JOHN BRUMBY: I guess all of these claims can be made and tested before the Royal Commission, so I'm
not going to comment and get into a debate about that with the union.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Victoria's Premier John Brumby ending that report by Rachael Brown in
Melbourne.