Country Fire Authority, or CFA, is a fire service in Victoria, Australia, with other fire services being Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). The CFA provides firefighting and emergency services to rural areas and regional towns in Victoria, and to portions of the outer suburban areas of Melbourne not covered by the MFB. Australian emergency services, including CFA, can be summoned to assist by dialling the primary emergency service telephone number, 000. Mobile phones also allow a default emergency number, 112, to be dialled.
|Country Fire Authority|
Official Logo of the Country Fire Authority (top) Official seal and emblem of the Country Fire Authority (bottom)
|CFA has a State headquarters and 5 regions across Victoria. Within these regions are 21 CFA districts.|
|Services||Combatant authority for fire, rescue and hazmat|
|1,086 career firefighters, 967 support staff and 35,595 volunteer firefighters|
The CFA was created on 2 April 1945 following significant bushfires during the period 1939–1944 which killed 114 people, destroyed nearly 1400 homes and damaged large areas of the state. Significant numbers of livestock also perished. Subsequent investigations by Judge Stretton at a royal commission in 1944 showed a lack of cohesive firefighting ability outside the central metropolitan area. The CFA took over existing brigades, many of which had been established in the 19th or early 20th century.
The CFA operates under the Country Fire Authority Act of 1958, as amended, and its regulations. The Act has been amended many times since its initial establishment, most recently in September 2015.
Since July 2013, fire services in Victoria have been funded by a fire service property levy on council rates. The CFA budgeted income for 2013–14 was $473m, of which $448m was provided by state government contributions, and $25m was internally generated (fees and charges, interest, donations, and sales of goods and services).
Additional government funding can be provided for specific staffing or training improvements, major works, or during long-duration incidents. The CFA also receives some funding from the provision of goods and services to external bodies, including Fire Equipment Maintenance (FEM). Individual brigades receive further funds from local councils, from their own fundraising activities and through donations from the community. Brigades may invest money to serve as an interest-earning vehicle, providing financial security against fiscal downturns. Some fire brigades hold large amounts of community funds to cover costs not met by CFA. These costs might include, but are not limited exclusively to, additional firefighting equipment, maintenance, improving or replacing facilities (including fire stations) and brigade-owned vehicles. Groups and brigades have also worked together with district support staff to provide financial or practical support to brigades and groups in need.
The Country Fire Authority is established under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (most recently amended in September 2015). The Authority is controlled by a board, and falls under the portfolio of the Minister for Emergency services, currently the honourable James Merlino.
At 1 July 2017, CFA personnel included 35,263 volunteer firefighters, 1120 career firefighters, and some 1400 administrative, instructional and supporting paid staff.
The Authority is controlled by a 9-member board, which includes a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.
 While this position was initially temporary, Ms Diver was reaffirmed as the ongoing CEO after six months in the role. CFA's current Chief Officer is Steve Warrington, promoted from his previous position as Deputy Chief Officer.
The CFA field of operations in Victoria covers an area of more than 150,000 square kilometres and a population of 3.3 million people. It divides its operations into 5 regions, which are then subdivided into 21 districts. Each District comprises Groups of Fire Brigades. The CFA regions are:
CFA resources include 1,220 brigades, of which 941 are rural volunteer brigades, 204 urban volunteer brigades, 36 integrated brigades (stations manned by career firefighters and volunteer firefighters), 23 forest industry brigades, and 17 coast guard brigades. The CFA's integrated fire brigades are in Ballarat City, Belmont, Bendigo, Boronia, Caroline Springs, Corio, Craigieburn, Cranbourne, Dandenong, Eltham, Frankston, Geelong City, Greenvale, Hallam, Hoppers Crossing, Lara, Lucas, Melton, Mildura, Mornington, Morwell, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, Patterson River, Point Cook, Portland, Rosebud, Rowville, Shepparton, South Morang, South Warrandyte, Springvale, Sunbury, Traralgon, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, and Wodonga.
CFA operates more than 4,000 vehicles, including 1,970 4WD tankers, 264 pumpers, 11 hydraulic platform (aerial) trucks, 28 rescue tenders, 16 hazmat vehicles plus numerous other vehicles including communications vans, lighting trucks, command and transport vehicles. This fleet is supplemented by more than 1,400 brigade-owned vehicles. Brigade-owned vehicles are paid for by local communities, sometimes with the assistance of government grants. CFA also lease a large fleet of firefighting aircraft to assist brigades throughout the busy Summer fire season. The fleet comprises rotary and fixed wing aircraft, from small single-engined planes up to Very Large Aerial Tankers, based on commercial passenger jets.
The CFA has 1,200 base radios, 5,800 vehicle radios, 3,000 hand held radios, 35,000 EAS pagers, 58 satellite terminals and 10,700 pre-conference telephone interceptors.
In 2005, the CFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard to establish CFA coast guard brigades. Under the MoU, all Victorian coast guard vessels will have CFA radios installed, EAS (Emergency Alerting System) pagers as used by the CFA as well as basic firefighting tools including a small pump and hoses. Additionally all coast guard members are to receive basic CFA firefighting training and some land-based brigades will receive marine firefighting training.
In Victoria, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) provides dispatch and call-taking services for Police, Ambulance, State Emergency Service and both rural and metropolitan fire services. ESTA operates over three sites, located in Melbourne CBD, East Burwood, and Mount Helen, in Ballarat.
Many ESTA practices and protocols are standardised across all emergency services, allowing all agencies to utilise the same computer network. This enables complete and instantaneous information sharing between emergency services. ESTA is also responsible for Victoria's State Emergency Service call-taking and dispatch for non life-threatening storm damage or flooding via 132 500.
When a caller dials 000 for emergency response within Victoria, an operator will connect them to the relevant ESTA facility, where call-takers collect information from the caller for entry into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Using this information, a dispatcher will respond the appropriate emergency resources. Services are often already being notified by the dispatcher while the call-taker is still obtaining further information or giving advice, such as guiding the caller through CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation).
When ESTA is notified of an incident, they send an emergency message via pager to firefighters. While this is usually the result of a call to 000, brigades or appliances may also be dispatched by other agencies such as Victoria Police or Ambulance Victoria, or at the request of an Incident Controller on scene. Brigades are dispatched based on various factors including the time of day, location and type of fire or incident. Although each fire brigade has a primary response area, support brigades are often dispatched to ensure a prompt response. Specialist vehicles may also be dispatched, especially for incidents such as for road accident rescue or large structural fires where the response is anticipated.
Victoria is divided into nine fire districts:
The CFA announces fire danger ratings, total fire ban declarations and fire restrictions, which apply to all municipalities within a fire district:
CFA provides separate rank structures to cater for volunteer firefighters and career firefighters. Not all CFA positions are listed.
|Operational Ranks for Volunteer Firefighters|
|Deputy Group Officer|
|Operational Ranks for Career Firefighters|
|Deputy Chief Officer|
|Assistant Chief Officer|
|Senior Station Officer|
On 19 May 2017, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino proposed changes to the Victorian fire services. These changes include rationalisation and realignment of fire district boundaries as well as changes to the structure of fire fighting services within the State of Victoria.
"CFA's regional training campuses allow firefighters to experience operational scenarios, including live fires, in a safe, controlled and realistic environment. This is essential in developing and maintaining skills needed to fulfil the mission of protecting lives and property in Victorian communities."
The CFA operates seven Regional Training Campuses:
In May 2017, CFA announced the construction of a new training facility near the town of Ballan, about 70 kilometres West of Melbourne. The new Ballan training grounds will be utilised predominantly by CFA's volunteer firefighters, as CFA's career firefighters now attend the VEMTEC college in Melbourne's Northern Suburbs. Expanding urban and industrial zones inside CFA's areas of response, are necessitating the building of additional integrated fire stations and the employment of more paid staff.
Career firefighters are employed following an exhaustive selection process. They commence with a 19-week course, learning basic firefighting and emergency handling skills, before being posted to initial "transitional" positions, where they are introduced to on-station life and work practices. They must then complete a station-based probationary learning period, followed by 4 years of practical and theory subjects relevant to the occupation. Firefighters achieving this level with sufficient subject marks, are promoted to the rank of Qualified Firefighter. They may then commence studies for assessment and promotion to the ranks of Leading Firefighter, Station Officer and Senior Station Officer.
CFA's volunteer firefighters must complete Wildfire "minimum skills" course, prior to being deemed competent to respond to fire and emergency calls. Progression to Officer ranks at the volunteer firefighter level occurs following election by fellow Volunteer Fire Brigade members.
The CFA has been involved in a number of major fires over the years where lives have been lost, including:
CFA deployments have also assisted during interstate fires such as the Sydney fires in 2002 and the 2003 Canberra bushfires. In late 2015, CFA firefighters were deployed to the South Australian fires, in support of CFS and SAFS crews. During February and March 2016, hundreds of CFA volunteer firefighters and some career firefighters were deployed across Bass Strait, where they assisted Tasmanian firefighters working on the North West Tasmanian fires. Many CFA firefighting, communications and specialist vehicles were ferried over as well.
The CFA is involved in responding to non-fire incidents, in addition to firefighting operations. CFA has a leading role in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of fires and other incidents. The CFA is responsible for combatting all fires on private land in Victoria outside of the Metropolitan Fire District, including Structure Fires and Bushfires. The CFA has a shared responsibility for rescues with the Victorian State Emergency Service and the MFB. In addition to response activities, CFA members also run prevention programs such as Fire Ready Victoria and Fire Safe Kids. Fire Safe Kids is an education program for Pre-Primary and Primary School students which teaches Fire Safety and the Role of Firefighters in the Community.
CFA is responsible, along with other Victorian emergency services, for some specialist response functions, including:
Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) was established under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to represent Volunteer Fire Brigades, working with CFA and the Victorian Government to ensure ongoing commitment to the Volunteer Charter.
The Victorian Branch of the United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFU) was established on 22 January 1911 and represents paid firefighters throughout Victoria. Volunteer firefighters may join the UFU as associate members. The UFU funds valuable research into firefighting technologies to benefit both paid and unpaid firefighters.
In November 2016, a third representative body came into being. The Victorian Volunteer Firefighters Association (VVFA) was established 4 October 2016, and represents individual volunteer firefighters, a move stemming from recognition that VFBV focus on brigades as a whole, rather than on individual volunteer members. Most CFA Volunteer Brigades are members of VFBV. A small minority have chosen stay as non-members of VFBV.
VFBV organise, promote and conduct the Urban and Rural State Fire Brigade Championships. In this series of exciting sporting events, Volunteer brigades compete in challenges based on past and (modified) current firefighting practices. In 2019, the Rural State Championships are going to be held at Bendigo, on 8 and 9 April. The 2017 State Junior Championships were held at Tatura, on 25 and 26 February.
The State Urban Championships took place in Bendigo over the Labour Day weekend.