FIRE safety at the Bathurst 1000 has taken a hit with news Fire and Rescue NSW will have no presence on Mount Panorama this year.
The 2013 Great Race will be the second under the watch of a 24-hour fire station, after a round-the-clock roster went live in December 2011.
Last year, permanent firefighters operated as normal from the fire station while FRNSW-trained retained firefighters and Rural Fire Service crews monitored Mount Panorama.
However, the Western Advocate has learned that, this year, the Mount will be protected by the RFS only.
Deputy mayor Ian North said the change was concerning, and FRNSW resources should be on standby both in town and at Mount Panorama over race weekend.
“The race attracts tens of thousands of people to the mount. You’ve got campers, plus millions of dollars worth of Pantechs and equipment up there,” he said.
“Then we’ve got the fuel dump inside the track and the fact that motor sport can be unpredictable, so it’s a certainly worry.
“We need to be completely prepared in the event that something does happen.
“We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on this debris fencing to increase safety, and why? We’ve never had an incident where debris has gone into the crowd.
“It’s about being proactive, so why wouldn’t you have Fire and Rescue up there.”
Cr North said with FRNSW firefighters operating out of the Suttor Street station, their response time to an event at Mount Panorama would be lengthy.
“Everyone knows what it’s like to get into the track on race weekend, so with everyone packed in and traffic banked up, it could take half an hour for them to get in,” he said.
He also pointed out the access tunnel under Caltex Chase to the inside of the circuit bears a height restriction of 3.1 metres, while most FRNSW pumpers are between 3.1 metres and 3.2 metres tall.
Because access to the inside of the circuit via the tunnel isn’t guaranteed, Cr North speculated the race would have to be stopped to allow a fire truck to cross the track.
“We’ve got millions of viewers around the world watching the race, only to see it shut down so a fire truck can cross the track. It’s ridiculous,” he said.
While complimentary to the efforts of the RFS, the deputy mayor said they could only do so much.
“Their volunteers don’t have the same level of training as Fire and Rescue firefighters,” he said.
“They don’t have the same capabilities and resources to handle fuel fires, hazardous materials, structural fires, and the like.”
Last year, plans were put in place for permanent firefighters to patrol Mount Panorama, while the city and its surrounds were left in the hands of retained firefighters.
However, it was feared that because retained firefighters were on-call, response times would slip.
The plan was scrapped after Bathurst MP Paul Toole lodged an inquiry with emergency services minister Michael Gallacher, who confirmed Bathurst’s permanent firefighters would operated as normal from their Suttor Street fire station.