Union hits out at lack of firefighters, equipment in Ipswich

QUEENSLAND Fire and Emergency Service says firefighters were ready and able to respond to emergencies in Ipswich on Sunday, despite union concerns over a lack of staffing and one very important piece of equipment.

United Firefighters Union Ipswich Branch President Bruce Beasley told the QT that due to quotas on overtime, combined with unusually high sick leave due to the flu season, crews were unable to man a specialist heavy rescue vehicle at Bundamba station.

Two Bundamba crew members were sent to fill in at other stations that were short-staffed and, as a result, the Bundamba vehicle - an $850,000 heavy rescue truck that was only delivered about a month ago - was temporarily taken out of service.

"These vehicles carry all the urban search and rescue gear, plus the heavy lifting and cutting gear if you get a crash where a car ends up underneath a truck," Mr Beasley said.

Mr Beasley said he believed the flu season had hit the service hard, but no allowances had been made to call in additional staff.

"The way I see it, Ipswich people pay their rates which include a fire and rescue levy. You should be able to expect that the best possible equipment is on the road," he said.

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service confirmed alternative arrangements had to be put in place in Ipswich on Sunday due to above average staff absence.

A Beenleigh heavy rescue vehicle and crew were reallocated to Camira station for the day, QFES said, "to provide the community the same level of specialist heavy rescue response."

Mr Beasley was critical of the practice of splitting trucks between regions, saying it could have led to longer delays in response times.

"Ideally two people would have been called in, as opposed to taking the truck off the road," he said.

"It's not something that happens regularly - maybe once every two or three months.

"It's not going to blow the budget that much to pay a couple more people."

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