Yarram Fire Station reaches breaking point

The walls are constantly being scraped by Yarram's three-decade-old Isuzu pumper.Photo: Tom Parry

Firefighters in Yarram are still waiting for a new station to be built as their current building continues to deteriorate.

The volunteer-led Yarram Fire Brigade has been promised a new building since 2016, with no confirmation as to when construction will begin.

Funding and budget restraints within the Country Fire Authority are being cited as reasons for the delay.

The inaction comes as the brigade’s current home in James Street faces significant structural and weather-resistance issues.

Captain Ian Badham first flagged issues with the building in 2015, when the station started breaking-up.

He believes that the station is becoming unworkable.

“There’s just no room to expand, so it’s no longer fit for purpose,” Cpt Badham said.

“It’s starting to hit that stage now that something needs to be done.

“The building’s starting to deteriorate and fall down around us.”

A large crack as seen from inside Yarram Fire Station. Not the light from outside coming through the shelves. 
Photo: Tom Parry

Evidence of that deterioration is found all through the station.

Cracks are appearing in both the exterior brickwork and plaster inside.

In one storage area, the crack in a concrete wall is so large that a hole has developed, allowing a clear view of the Senior Citizens building next door.

The foundations are breaking through the concrete floor beneath where Yarram’s two fire trucks are parked.

Dents are visible at the entrance where the trucks – the only ones small enough to fit within the building – have scrapped against the narrow door frame.

The situation is made even worse during wet weather, when water makes its way through the gaps in the ceiling.

“When it rains, it leaks, and we’ve got buckets down here, there and everywhere,” Cpt Badham said.

Aside from its dilapidated state, the main issue with the station is that it is simply an outdated building, unsuitable by modern standards.

The crack from the previous photo, as seen from outside. // Photo: Tom Parry

Cpt Badham noted that the James St building does not have a dedicated changing room, with uniforms and safety gear currently hung on the garage walls next to the trucks.

When responding to an incident, all volunteers must change out of their clothing and into their uniforms.

At Yarram, this is done with only centimetres between the volunteers and the trucks, which risks somebody being run-over.

Additionally, volunteers will often have to change without privacy, since the garage that houses the trucks opens onto James St.

Understandably, Mr Badham would rather not have the prying eyes of the public watching the firefighters change into their uniforms.

“As captain, I don’t want my female volunteers having to basically strip down to their underwear in full view of everyone,” he said.

Issues like the above aren’t just a hindrance to Yarram’s firefighters, but to potential recruits as well.

Brigade secretary Sally Woods said that the state of the building is affecting the recruitment of new volunteers.

“It’s very difficult to recruit when you’ve got limited facilities, like this, to bring people into,” Ms Woods said.

Mr Badham adds, “They come in and see the building falling down… and they leave.”

The clothing pegs next to Yarram’s tanker.
Photo: Tom Parry

Although it is not yet known when a new fire station in Yarram will be built, land has been purchased on Commercial Rd to construct a new facility for the brigade.

Said land was purchased in 2016.

In a media release earlier this month, Gippsland South MP Danny O’Brien suggested that works on the new building would commence next year.

“I have now been told that the rebuild of the Yarram station has finally been budgeted for by the CFA in the 2023-24 financial year, but may be brought forward,” Mr O’Brien said.

“While it has been a long time coming, there is no doubt that this will serve as welcome news to the hard-working emergency service volunteers that have been making do with inferior facilities for years.”

Mr O’Brien attributed his information to an Infrastructure Update from the CFA dated December 2021.

The CFA was approached by the Gippsland Times for comment, but the organisation was unable to confirm that a set date for construction had been reached.

“Land has been acquired and construction of a replacement fire station at Yarram has been identified as a priority within the CFA Capital Works Program, but is not currently funded,” the spokesperson said.

“The Capital Works Program is informed by CFA’s infrastructure priorities, which take into consideration district, regional and state-wide needs, including community risk profile and service delivery needs, to ensure the best outcome for Victorians.”

According to a lone sign that sits on the vacant Commercial Rd site, $30,000 has currently been raised towards construction, with another $70,000 still needed.

Cpt Badham said that any further donations from the community would be welcome.

The site of the future Yarram Fire Station on Commercial Rd.
Photo: Tom Parry