“Fire protection. Community Right! ”

These were the shouts of the Melbourne Fire Brigade (MFB) and Country Fire Authority (CFA) this morning as hundreds stopped traffic in a protest across Melbourne CBD this morning.

With the deadly fire season only 42 days away, the MFB, CFA, and the United Firefighters Union (UFU) believe that the community is in urgent need of more firefighters.

“It is a right that the State Government is not honouring,” said fire station officer and UFU member James Kafallas, who was at the forefront of the protest.

“A joint UFU/CFA board ruled that 24 stations need to be upgraded including providing extra staffing but nothing has happened yet.”

On August 18, Premier John Brumby named the state’s 52 danger spots for the coming fire season.

The fire stations that need extra fire fighters now cover 34 of these 52 hot spots,according to the fire fighter

These include Ballarat, Dandenong, Eltham, Geelong West, Hastings, Hoppers Crossing, Lara, Lorne, Melton, Mildura, Mooroopna, Mornington, Narre Warren, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, Phillip Island, Portland, Rowville, Sale, South Morang, Springvale, Sunbury, Warragul and Warrandyte.

In addition to calling for more staff placement funding, Kafallas highlighted that the State Government were removing clauses in their employment agreements.

“Taking out these clauses will compromise our health and safety and have a negative impact on staffing numbers. It is no different to what they have done with others like the paramedics.”

Premier John Brumby said the State Government has more than tripled its spending on fire services over the last decade.

“I agree that the most important thing we’ve got to do between now and the end of the year is to make our state as fire safe and as fire ready as possible, and I believe that we’re doing that.”

A recent risk assessment by the Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre (BCRC) found that the fire season may hit Victoria earlier than expected.

The BCRC said that the entire state faced a serious fire risk, which they attributed to low rainfall and heavy fuel loads.

High risk areas include the Dandenongs, East Gippsland, Grampians, Macedon Ranges, and Otways.