Emergency rosters to aid fire relief

EMERGENCY rosters for career firefighters will be rolled out across Bendigo from tomorrow to aid the control of an open-cut mine fire near Morwell. 

The rosters will recall off-duty career firefighters from Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton and Mildura to fill positions at the Hazelwood mine fire, or in integrated fire stations across the state requiring extra firefighters. 

It will also mean CFA crews currently on duty will work 12-hour shifts, as opposed to a regular 10-hour shift. 

It is unclear how long the new rosters will be in force. 

Despite the burning area of the coal pit reduced by 85 per cent and predictions the fire will be out by Monday, CFA spokesman Gerard Scholten said there was a lot more work to be done.

He said the decision to utilise the "rare" rosters was not taken lightly. 

"It is the last big push towards getting on top of this fire in Morwell, which has been burning for four weeks," he said. 

"These rosters are only implemented in specific circumstances and we understand the inconvenience. But as we reach the climax of extinguishing the fire, we require more crews to relieve the current crews."

He said the specialised equipment required to fight the Morwell fire meant career firefighters were required to attend. 

"Not many volunteer firefighters are trained to use this specific equipment, which is why our career fighters are required."

Mr Scholten could not confirm what penalty rates the firefighters would receive.

CFA operations manager Craig Brittain said Bendigo firefighters were understanding of the current situation. 

"It is a huge fire and we all have to be involved with it because it's not going to go out on its own," he said. 

"We are providing resources to deal with that because the situation has been tough on troops, locals and equipment."

Despite this, there are claims the Hazelwood fire has seen firefighters work up to 21-hour shifts, with Metropolitan Fire Brigade firefighters raising concerns with management about fatigue. 

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley has said the Hazelwood fire had prompted a broader review of fire management and prevention measures in and around Victorian open-cut mines and adjacent land.

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