As a Mole Creek Fire Brigade member for the past 6¾ years, I haven’t been to any large fires or wildfires. So on a fireground I’ve never been in a position where a split-second decision could have a major implication. But I’ve been to enough fires to realise that no matter how deep one’s knowledge and how broad and long one’s experience, a Volunteer firefighter or a Career (i.e. paid) one, acting in the best of faith with the benefit of the best human and material resources, can make decisions that in the heat of the moment (pun intended) seemed correct but in hindsight weren’t. On 24 September 2007 the Myer department store in Hobart’s CBD burnt down, despite fire crews’ efforts [1, 2, 3]. Last Tuesday Myer’s insurer and the building’s owner announced they’ve lodged a Supreme Court damages writ against the State Fire Commission and its then chief John Gledhill, arguing the fire’s damage could’ve been reduced had firefighters acted differently . (I don’t know details of the firefighting; I’m concerned here with the principle.) Mr Gledhill said ‘The Fire Service Act is very specific, it provides indemnity for people making operational decisions such as those that were made on the day of the Myer Fire or in any fire for that matter’ . I hope the Supreme Court will interpret the Act thus. But whether it does or not, soon the State Government will introduce legislation to remove all doubt over the Act’s immunity provision (i.e. s.121) .
2 days ago