Fire and Rescue NSW have come under attack from unions representing fire fighters and paramedics, over two separate FRNSW proposals.
The Fire Brigade Employees' Union (FBEU) has hit out at FRNSW plans to allow Helensburgh and Scarborough Fire & Rescue Stations to be temporarily taken off-line in the event of a staffing shortage.
The union is fighting against the proposal it says has "major risks for firefighter and community safety", in the Industrial Relations Commission.
Meantime, the Health Services Union (HSU) has slammed a plan to put firefighters in ambulances saying it reflects years of paramedic short staffing.
It comes after FRNSW's plan for firefighters to drive ambulances or be ready to attend life-threatening heart attacks in case COVID case loads overwhelm the paramedic workforce, was revealed.
"Asking firefighters to drive an ambulance will not address the clinical treatment of a patient who requires two qualified paramedics," HSU NSW secretary, Gerard Hayes said. "Driving a vehicle and treating a heart attack are two very different things.
"Modern paramedics are trained to keep a patient alive, and administer sophisticated early medical care
"This plan demonstrates chronic under funding, under resourcing and under staffing. We have an attraction and retention crisis among paramedics who are the hardest working but worst paid in the country."
FRNSW Commissioner Paul Baxter said the plan addressed the new challenges presented by the pandemic.
"Fire and Rescue NSW's purpose is to protect the irreplaceable and we are committed to keeping our community safe," he said.
"Firefighters are properly equipped, trained and capable of delivering basic life support, CPR and defibrillation.
"As the community would expect, FRNSW stands ready to assist partner agencies such as NSW Ambulance to address the challenges this pandemic is presenting."
FRNSW Deputy Commissioner, Jeremy Fewtrell also explained why plans were in place to take Helensburgh and Scarborough Fire & Rescue Stations temporarily off-line in the event of a staffing shortage.
"FRNSW has an established procedure of managing all of its on-call fire stations, and the practice of taking fire trucks temporarily off-line is partly a result of changing demographics, improvements in technology, and a more modern understanding of fire safety and risks," he said.
"Under FRNSW's risk-based approach, which was formalised in conjunction with the FBEU in 2008, a fire truck is only temporarily taken offline when there are more than sufficient resources in the area to respond to emergencies.
"These decisions are based on data including ongoing incident response coverage of the area by other nearby appliances. The needs of the community are always taken into account when making a decision to take an appliance offline."
FBEU state director Martin Dixon said taking any fire station offline deprives a local community of a critical emergency response.
"The NSW Government should be turning its mind to increasing fire services to serve this increasing population, but instead, they want to shut local fire stations down to save money," he said.
"At the moment, fire stations without sufficient safe crewing levels are supplemented by other firefighters at overtime rates, which is necessary to keep our communities safe.
"Staffing shortages can be avoided by fixing the critical understaffing and underfunding of the service."