Victoria Fire Chief Resigns Ahead of Panel's Recommendations

Russell Rees, who heads the Victorian Country Fire Authority, said the agency will undergo "great change" once the commission hands up its recommendations in July, and a new chief should be in place then.

The three-member 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has a July 31 deadline to deliver its final report on wildfires in Australia's Victoria state that killed 173 people during late January and February 2009, and now a new chief will be charge of the Victorian Country Fire Authority to implement the panel's recommendations. Russell Rees has announced he will resign after this fire season, possibly paving the way for consolidation of several fire service agencies into a single unit.

The United Firefighters Union wants the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority, and the Department of Sustainability and Environment's firefighters to be merged into one service; Rees has faced criticism for not taking command of the situation during the 2009 wildfires, but the union argues the fault lies in a fundamentally flawed fire service system.

The commission delivered an interim report with seven building recommendations in November 2009, including a recommendation that the Australian Building Codes Board complete a standard for bushfire bunkers by April 30, 2010, addressing fire resistance, structural strength, resistance to high winds, maintenance of tenable conditions, minimal functional size, maximum occupancy period, visual communication with the outside, siting, access and egress, and signage.

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