After 16 years as captain of the Suffolk Park-based Byron Bay Rural Fire Brigade, Rod Halpin is stepping down angry and frustrated at being unable to resolve ‘conflicting issues’ with NSW Fire Brigade chiefs.
For five years, Mr Halpin said, he had been trying to organise a meeting between the NSW Rural Fire Service and NSW Fire Brigade senior officers to talk about the conflicts, but without success.
At the core of the problem, he said, was a fire call-out system which didn’t ‘recognise’ certain areas and roads in the Byron Shire, leading to confusion over which of the two services should respond.
Under the present system, the NSW Fire Brigade is called to town house fires, such as the recent blazes at Wategos, with the rural fire service, in general terms, called to fires in non-urban areas.
Which means technically, the rural fire service could not attend a house fire across the road from its Alcorn Street station unless it was ‘invited’ by the NSW Fire Brigade to respond.
Similarly, if a fire broke out at Byron High School, the NSW Fire Brigade would be called out, but across the road at Red Devil Park, the call would go to the rural fire service.
Depending where they happen, including Broken Head Road, Ewingsdale Road and Bangalow Road, car accidents also present similar problems.
Mr Halpin said he wasn’t trying to ‘put crap on anyone’ and he had absolutely no problem with the ‘boys in town’ at the Byron Bay Fire Brigade who were only doing what they were told to do by their own service.
“I have been talking for five years about getting the best outcome for the community involving both services,” he said,
“It would benefit certain areas if there was a joint response.
“We are not trying to take over any area.
“We just want to respond to areas that we think both brigades would be of benefit to the community.
“My disappointment is that I don’t think the two services are giving the best services to the community.
“It could be easily fixed.
“I have tried to set up meetings with New South Wales Fire Brigade hierarchy, but I have not been able to achieve that.
“I wanted to sit down and work out the best system for the community – that’s all we are trying to do. But you try and get someone to do that
“I was getting cranky and frustrated and thought it was time for me to step back and let someone else have a different view of it.”
Mr Halpin, who joined the rural fire brigade in 1992, said he was sad to be stepping down as captain without resolving the issue.
However, he will remain a member of the brigade as a deputy captain and be ready to drive one of the fire trucks when required and maintain equipment.
“I have enjoyed the challenge and I have enjoyed the people I have worked with,” he said.
“The rural fire service people are absolutely marvellous people.”
A new captain will be elected at the brigade’s annual meeting at the fire station on Sunday, May 23.
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