Last day for more than century of full-time fire officer

CHANGE: Station Officer Matt Goldman - the last of a long and honoured line.
CHANGE: Station Officer Matt Goldman - the last of a long and honoured line.

More than a century of having a full-time firefighter in Glen Innes comes to an end today (Friday). The position of Station Commander is to be closed under a plan to switch resources to Tamworth.

The leadership of Fire & Rescue NSW feels that retained, on-call firefighters can fill the gap. At the moment, there is one permanent fireman stationed at Glen Innes.

As well as being an active firefighter, he also administers the station and is available there to give advice to people who call in. He also gives talks on fire safety, and to some he is a reassuring presence on the ground.

But the service’s management feel that the money could be better spent. It’s trying to boost the station in Tamworth to bump up the 24-hour cover.

There has been concern from the council about the economic impact of closing the role. Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall has said he would oppose the move if it jeopardized safety.

But Fire & Rescue NSW Assistant Commissioner, Rob McNeil, said earlier in the year that after the change emergency response times in Glen Innes would remain “unchanged” and wouldn’t compromise safety. 

The authority’s reasoning is that the full-time officer was instigated at a time when transport was much slower whereas now, fast vehicles and roads enable services to be more centralised, leaving on-call brigades in place.

But the Fire Brigade Employees Union (FBEU) said the transfer was bad for the community “not only in terms of service delivery, but also economically”.

Apart from the loss of a presence in the town of someone who is available at the fire station to advise, it also marks the end of an era.

There’s been a permanent officer stationed at the fire station since it was built and opened in 1916. The council bought the land on the corner of Bourke and Church Streets for £250 (the equivalent of more than $30,000 today) and the current brick structure was built. Before that, the flimsier station was on the park.

The new structure needed a permanent person in charge and First Class Firefighter W. Kinnear was appointed.

His successor today is Station Officer Matt Goldman who declined to comment to The Examiner. 

Recently, he and the station played their part in the wider social changes in Glen Innes when a Gay Pride rainbow banner was raised above the station during the campaign over the same-sex marriage survey. Some gay people said they felt heartened by the sight of it. It eased their loneliness, they told The Examiner.