Fire and Rescue NSW has confirmed it plans to close Weston Fire Station when the new station at Abermain is fully operational.
FRNSW Assistant Commissioner Gerry Byrne said it is planned that the Abermain and Weston fire engines and on-call firefighters will be co-located at the new station.
The Fire Brigade Employees’ Union is opposing the closure of the Weston station, saying the merger will reduce services and cost jobs.
While it is planned that all current personnel from each brigade will be located at the new station, the union says the Weston station has been deliberately understaffed in order to justify its closure.
“The community of Weston is the latest target of Baird's irresponsible budget cuts,” FBEU state secretary Leighton Drury said.
“Weston is facing not only a loss of professional fire and rescue services, but also much-needed local jobs.”
Each brigade currently has one pump truck (used for urban firefighting). The new station will accommodate one pump truck and one tanker truck (used for bushfires).
Assistant Commissioner Byrne said the combination of the two trucks would increase the brigades’ capability to deal with fires and enable firefighters to provide better safety and protection of local communities.
But the union fears there will be a reduction in firefighting staff at Abermain and Weston resulting from the change in appliance, saying the tanker requires less personnel.
Member for Cessnock Clayton Barr said he was gravely concerned about the Weston station’s closure, particularly in light of proposed changes to the emergency services levy.
In recent decades, emergency services have been funded by a combination of sources: 73.7 percent from insurance companies (collected as a levy from home insurers), 14.6 percent from the NSW Government and 11.7 percent from local councils.
But the government is proposing a change to the funding model that would see the percentage collected from home insurance levies replaced by a levy imposed on all land rates for all properties.
“It is incredible that the government would be shutting down the Weston fire station at a time when they are planning to collect more money than ever before from the people of Weston to fund emergency services,” Mr Barr said.
“Building the new fire station at Abermain is welcomed, but the government need to stop sneaking around in the shadows, and instead, front the people of Weston and tell them what the future holds for their fire station.”
Mr Barr said the closure of the Weston station could result in the loss of well-trained people.
He said while Abermain was only three kilometres away, it was more likely that the Weston firefighters would be the last to reach the station and might miss the truck altogether (a truck requires four personnel to leave the station).
““People will walk away because they will lose motivation and interest,” Mr Barr said.
A Facebook page called ‘Save Weston Fire Station 497’ was founded on December 8 and has more than 1000 likes.