CFA response times don’t show full story

By Cobram Courier

The CFA has released its latest statistics in relation to emergency response times for fire brigades around the state, but Cobram Fire Brigade captain Adrian Hilder is adamant the public should not read too much into them.

‘‘They’re accurate, but the public don’t know what they are all about,’’ Mr Hilder said.

‘‘It is all right for the CFA to release the statistics, but they are not telling the public how they are actually measured.’’

Volunteer firefighters in Cobram — who may be asleep in the middle of the night or at work during the day — have just four minutes to get to the fire station after their pagers go off.

When you consider that in that time they have to get to the station in their private vehicle without speeding, get changed into their gear, get into the truck and give their turnout message to say they are responding, it seems an impossible target.

The firefighters have an even smaller window of three minutes to get on scene from the time they send the turnout message.

‘‘From the time the pager goes off when you’re asleep in the middle of the night, you have got seven minutes to actually get to that fire,’’ Mr Hilder said.

‘‘Our average response time in Cobram is between four and five minutes to get the truck to the scene, which we are really proud of.

‘‘In our entire history, we have never, ever failed to respond with a vehicle out the door when paged.’’

Mr Hilder said while the statistics consistently showed stations in bigger regional cities such as Shepparton and Wangaratta having response times of close to 100 per cent, there was a major point of difference that naturally separated response times of small-town brigades and larger brigades.

‘‘What people don’t realise is that Cobram is made up fully of volunteers, which means there is no-one at the Cobram Fire Station,’’ he said.

‘‘In Shepparton and Wangaratta, the firefighters live there, they sleep there.

‘‘What I try and tell people when these statistics are brought up in conversation is that we are not paid here in Cobram, we are volunteers and the reason our statistics may look a little down is because of the times we have been given to respond in.’’

Mr Hilder believes there is also a misconception in the community that volunteer firefighters are not as adequately trained as their full-time counterparts.

‘‘We actually have to be equally as trained as permit firefighters,’’ he said.

‘‘We have to have all the training, do all the updates and do everything the same as manned stations.

‘‘A lot of people in country areas think they are not getting the best, but they are.’’