IN THE AUSTRALIAN STATE OF VICTORIA, THE FIRE CHIEF of the Country Fire Authority (CFA), Russell Rees announced his resignation after just 6 months into his current 2-year contract.
Chief Russell Rees
Chief Rees was in charge of the CFA in February 2009 when the infamous brush fires roared through large swaths of the state killing 173 people and culminating with what is now called “Black Saturday.”
Rees has been under intense pressure to leave since an interim report for the commission charged with investigating the disaster was released late last year. The official report is due to be released in July. The interim report said, “At the IECC (Integrated Emergency Co-ordination Centre) Mr Rees did not appear to become actively involved in operational issues, even when the disastrous consequences of the fires began to emerge.” TV Channel 9 reports: Rees was in charge of the CFA on Black Saturday and revealed at the Royal Commission that people at the control centres were relying on inaccurate maps despite having access to detailed data showing the projected movement of the fires through Kinglake and surrounding communities. Rees admitted that as a result, ABC radio warnings proved more effective and up-to-date than those from the CFA.
There is a lot of strong opinion in Victoria on whether Rees was pushed out, or if he chose to leave voluntarily, as he insists. The Australian has a good summary on this controversy HERE.
Chief Rees has had the support of the United Firefighters Union, however. The Herald Sun REPORTS:
Victoria’s firefighters’ union says the resignation is a chance to move forward and unify the state’s fire services. The United Firefighters Union UFU wants the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, CFA and the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s firefighters to be merged into one service.
UFU national secretary Peter Marshall said Mr Rees did not necessarily make bad errors on Black Saturday but was working with a chronically flawed system. “We’ve supported Mr Rees, in the context of that day, because there needs to be an analysis of the lead-up to that season,” Mr Marshall told AAP. “That includes what resources he had as opposed to what resources were delivered and you can only work with the tools you have got.
The union presented a submission earlier this month to the commission stating that the current system of separate fire services did not serve the “best interests” of Victorians.
The Age has more on this controversy plus a video of Chief Rees’ public announcement HERE.