Firefighters extinguish a ferocious fire which tore through a home in Murwillumbah.
Firefighters extinguish a ferocious fire which tore through a home in Murwillumbah.

House burned while fire trucks sat idle

AS A fire tore through a home in Murwillumbah earlier this month, two fire trucks just two minutes from the scene sat idle as the Rural Fire Service waited for the go-ahead to give assistance.

But the call never came.

At 3.20pm on Friday, September 14, Murwillumbah Fire and Rescue were called to Commercial Rd after the home to a family of seven went up in flames.

But instead of receiving assistance from the Murwillumbah Rural Fire Service, which had two trucks on Kyogle Rd just minutes away, trucks were called from Tweed Heads and Kingscliff, at least 25 minutes away.

RFS Murwillumbah volunteer Joe Frankland said a turf war between Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service meant the community was being left to suffer.

"They keep saying this is their area, but what's best for the community, it's not about the badge, it's about the best professional service for the community," he said.

"We could have had two trucks there 25 minutes before their backup arrived and assisted, how much damage was done in that 25 minute period?

"This fight has been going on for 18 years and it will take someone's death before someone asks why backup is coming from Tweed Heads when our trucks were closer to the scene."


Rural Fire Service NSW - Kingscliff Branch
Photo: Scott Powick DAILY NEWS
The Murwillumbah Rural Fire Service was not called to a house fire despite having two trucks just minutes away. SCOTT POWICK

Mr Frankland said the lack of communication was not the fault of the Murwillumbah FRNSW but went higher up the chain.

"It's not about the local brigade at all, they're fantastic and awesome guys, it's all about the politics at the top," he said.

The complaint comes two months after an independent inquiry into the bushfire response at Tathra which destroyed 65 homes and 70 caravans.

The inquiry found communication between FRNSW and the Rural Fire Service were flawed with "palpable animosity" between the two agencies.

The report also found red tape that decided which agency took jurisdiction over a fire needed to be cut.

Recommendations included getting rid of fire boundaries that cause disputes between the RFS and FRNSW.

A FRNSW media representative said the response to the Murwillumbah house fire was "in line with agreed response protocols".


Children from the Murwillumbah Early Education Centre have been evacuated after a fire broke out this afternoon.
DRAMATIC SCENES: The Murwillumbah house destroyed during a fire earlier this month. Rachel Drew

"A fire crew from Murwillumbah arrived within eight minutes of receiving the emergency call and found the house was well alight," they said.

"Whilst the fire was rapidly brought under control, firefighters from Tweed Heads and Kingscliff fire stations, including a HAZMAT crew also responded to the incident.

"The incident occurred within a FRNSW fire district and firefighters responded accordingly in line with agreed response protocols.

"FRNSW and the Rural Fire Service have a long tradition of working side by side and will continue to work together to protect the community."

The representative did not respond to questions on why the Murwillumbah RFS was not called to assist with the fire.