Photo credit: Andrew Hanlon
It is with sincere regret, that we announce the cancellation of the 2022 Annual State (Easter) Firefighter Championships, which were to be held on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th April 2022.
This decision has not been taken lightly and was made following consultation with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and through them, the Department of Health.
We know the decision will disappoint many of our Volunteer Fire and Rescue Service members. The decision needed to be made now to ensure DFES, the Volunteer Fire and Rescue Services Association (VFRSA) and our members were not out of pocket due to cancellation fees that may have been charged had we waited.
A significant driver of the decision was also to ensure that our VFRS brigades remain a viable emergency service for their communities during these times.
This is also DFES’ main concern as the difficulties experienced in the Eastern States (particularly within Fire and Rescue Service in NSW and Fire and Rescue Victoria) has demonstrated just how severe an impact COVID can have on an emergency service.
Further reasons are outlined below:
The current situation, with the Omicron variant of COVID being unpredictable in its transmission, as well as the State Government not ruling out possible future lockdowns (or deciding to extend current restrictions beyond March), makes holding the Championships a risky proposition. There is also the additional possibility of DFES having to move to its “Business Continuity Plan” where members will be requested to stay away from their station except to respond to an incident. It would be unacceptable for the Association to run a Championship in these circumstances.
Members of VFRS are classified as “Critical Workers”, so it was felt that any positive contact(s) arising from the Championships could have a severe impact on a brigade, particularly those brigades with a small membership with respect turnout crews. The Government modelling predicts that the State will go over 10,000 cases a day at the peak of the pandemic. The exact dates for this are speculative at this stage ranging from mid-March to mid-April. This is the critical time period for the Championships.
A reduction in the number of brigades and teams planning to participate in the Championships. Based on the information forwarded to Jodie Neuzerling, the competition coordinator, about brigades attending and the number of teams in each division, the number of brigades was less than in 2021 and the number of teams down by 9.
The Championships as an event, would require that certain COVID restrictions be met, namely no more than 500 people, following the 2 square metre rule (this would be a difficult restriction to meet, with officials in the timing stand, brigade members in tents areas and the grandstand, accessing food and drinks, etc.) and the wearing of face masks by officials, competitors when not competing, and spectators. The sanitisation of gear and competitors / officials hands would have to be undertaken vigorously and after every run. Historically, based on the 2020 Junior Championships which were held under similar restrictions, policing of all of this is a considerable impost; and given that we are often struggling for judges, we are unsure of where we would draw our “COVID Marshalls”.
There are significant infrastructure costs associated with the running of these Championships; particularly shade covers and grandstands, security, fencing and trophies. This equipment and infrastructure needs to be organised well ahead of the Championships and deposits paid. We are currently just within the timeframe to be able to cancel these orders and not lose the deposits.
At this stage, we are still planning to hold the State Junior Championships on the November 26 and 27.
The possibility has been mentioned of running some Senior Dry Work Events and Operational Events at these Championships (possibly in twilight so as not to impact on the Junior program). This will be investigated, and brigades will be consulted about the feasibility of this proposal.
A positive that does come out of this decision is it allows time for the Competition Management Committee to further consult with brigades about the format that was proposed for this year’s Championships and seek your input and feedback.
Hopefully VFRS will get through this period without any serious issues. It may be that we are jumping at shadows and that the Championships would have gone off without a hitch; but unfortunately, this is not something that could be guaranteed, and the Association believes that it is wiser to err on the side of caution and keep in mind the main role and responsibilities of our Brigades and their members.
Have a question?
If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact Jodie Neuzerling, competition coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tony Dodd, competition director at email@example.com.