Independent Review Into South Australia's 2019-20 Bushfire Season
The 2019-20 bushfire season was one of the longest and most intense series of fire events in the history of South Australia and Australia alike.
UFUSA members supported the Country Fire Service (CFS), the Department for Environment and Water along with interstate crews in responding to bushfires in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
The large volume of requests for MFS assistance reflects the reality that bushfires have become a “core business” of the MFS.
Unfortunately, the changed reality of bushfire fighting in South Australia is not reflected in the fleet of MFS appliances nor the training, nor the support UFUSA members receive.
Currently, only 33 of the MFS’ 115 appliances have Burn Over Protection Systems or BOPS which are essential to saving firefighter lives during a bushfire. This means there is less than one BOP equipped appliance per the MFS’ 38 stations state-wide.
In December 2020 the MFS identified faults in the deluge spray systems of 26 of these BOPs appliances leading to their immediate recall as well as cessation of retrofits of BOPs to other MFS appliances.
Additionally, bushfire training for members whilst delivered by highly competent and committed trainers is subject to competing funding pressures creating resourcing deficiencies in the delivery of that training.
The UFUSA made submissions to both the 2020 SA Keelty Review and 2020 Commonwealth Royal Commission calling for greater bushfire resourcing and training as a priority ahead of the next bushfire season.
In June 2020 the SA Keelty Review found that “significant investment” is needed “to modernise or replace” existing MFS and CFS fleet, including investment in “appropriate vehicle fleets for bushfire conditions … at the peri-urban interface”.
The SA Keelty Review also recommended “all vehicles are fitted with Burn Over Protection Systems (BOPS)” as well as Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) technology and that Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICS) be made available as standard stowage in every truck.
In its September 2020 response the SA Marshall Government failed to address ANY of the Keelty Review findings and recommendations to MFS resourcing.
Despite the increasing frequency and intensity of bushfires in SA due to climate change, shamefully more than 70% of MFS appliances are still not fitted with BOPS, AVL has not been rolled out to any trucks in the sector, TICS are still not on every truck, and there are still no new trucks in the MFS fleet.
Bushfire readiness is part of the UFUSA’s resourcing campaign and further details can be found on the resourcing campaign page.