Partnership to remain for CFA staff and volunteers at Wangaratta

STILL ON THE SAME SIDE: Operations officer Matthew Johnson and volunteer Jason Allisey will continue fighting fires side-by-side in Wangaratta, no matter the future organisational structure.

STILL ON THE SAME SIDE: Operations officer Matthew Johnson and volunteer Jason Allisey will continue fighting fires side-by-side in Wangaratta, no matter the future organisational structure.

The title of the organisation they work for will not matter much to firefighters when it comes time to put out the fires.

That is the opinion of Wangaratta volunteer Lieutenant Jason Allisey, who was more focused on the community than internal politics following the Victorian’s government’s decision to split the paid and volunteer sectors of the CFA.

He and other volunteers learned the news along with everyone else on Thursday evening, but it was not a surprise.

“We’ve been prepared for this,” Lt Allisey said.

“Nothing will change within the short term in the relationship between the staff and the volunteers and I don’t think anything will change in the long term either.”

Wangaratta and Wodonga are two of the state’s 35 integrated stations, which the government has said will be able to keep both CFA volunteers and paid firefighters in the new Fire Rescue Victoria organisation under the same roof.

Lt Allisey said volunteers would have questions in the coming weeks about their future.

“It’s all very up in the air at the moment as to what’s going on, it’s all very unclear,” he said.

“It’s the priority that things will be business as usual, especially for the Wangaratta community.”

Benambra MLA Bill Tilley said the government and CFA were close to an agreement on the new integrated Wodonga Fire Station, to be built on Thomas Mitchell Drive, but he was unsure how the organisational change would affect the building.

He said it was unclear if enough bays would be built for volunteer vehicles, how many firefighter beds it would provide and if volunteers would be allowed in FRV areas.

“The relationship of those fantastic people could be strained,” Mr Tilley said.

“(Volunteer firefighters) understand that sometimes change is necessary, but they say – and I agree – that the CFA has been dynamically changing already overs the years.

“They haven’t consulted … It’s murky, it lacks consultation, it’s been done under the cover of darkness.”

He said he was confident firefighters would maintain their professionalism during the uncertain time.

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