CFA Training College, Fiskville

CFA Training College, Fiskville was the training college for members of the Country Fire Authority (CFA), a large, predominantly volunteer fire and emergency service which has legislative responsibility for fire and emergencies in regional Victoria (Australia). The site is also known as Fiskville, named for Ernest Fisk, of Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia).

The college was located on the site of the old beam wireless shortwave transmitter, about 10 kilometres south of Ballan.[1]

The facility was closed permanently in March 2015 following the detection of contaminated water on the site, caused by CFA management knowingly using carcinogenic chemicals to cut costs,[2] and the 2011 finding that the site is associated with a cancer cluster.[3][4] The contamination extended to properties surrounding the training facility.[5] After it was announced that up to 80 staff would lose their jobs, some CFA members criticised the closure and rallied to keep the site operating by requesting the government properly decontaminate the site and invest in infrastructure upgrades through use of local campaigning, social media and petitions.[6]

History of Fiskville

The name of the property came from Sir Ernest Fisk, the Chairman of Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Limited (AWA) when the property was owned and managed by AWA and used as a long distance radio communication station as part of the Imperial Wireless Chain. The original California Bungalow style buildings at the front of the property, built to house the station's technical staff and their families, were later used as accommodation for student firefighters. The original generator building housed the Teaching Centre, while the concrete blocks used to anchor the aerials' guy wires are still visible in multiple locations around the property.


CFA Fiskville was used by CFA volunteers and staff for general training (both theory and practical), but had many other uses, including:[7]

  • Live-in training for CFA career firefighters
  • Fire training for corporate clients
  • Some training with Metropolitan Fire Brigade firefighters

The Pad

The practical training area was known as the 'Pad'. On the Pad there were several different drill areas, including:

  • Plane crash, located rear of Bunnings shed (Big Green Shed) in Blue gums. (Search & Rescue)
  • 3 large petrol storage tanks, Pyrose Parade (Gas fire, Search & Rescue)
  • Large vertical refinery structure, Pyrose Parade (Gas fire, fog attack)
  • Service station, Jolimont Road (Gas fire, car fire, fog attack, structural risk)
  • 2 horizontal gas bullets, one vertical gas bullet, and small refinery structure, Jolimont Road (Gas fire, fog attack)
  • Loading dock, Pyrose pde (Flammable Liquids, Gas)
  • Running Fuel Drain Fire (Flammable Liquids, Gas)
  • Hospital, Jolimont Road (Structure fire, Search & Rescue)
  • Single Storey Structure, normally car under carport, 7 Tower Road (Car fire, Structural risk, Search & Rescue)
  • Fish & Chip Shop, back of 7 Tower Road (Flammable Liquid Fire, Structure fire, Search & Rescue)
  • Flashover Room, back of 7 Tower Road (Flashover demonstration)
  • Double Storey Structure, Tower Road (Structure fire, Thermal layering, Search & Rescue)
  • Multiple locations for motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) and car fires
  • Factoryette Tower Rd/Jolimont Rd - Structure attack, search and rescue

Other facilities

There were other scenarios around the grounds of Fiskville including a train derailment, training power lines, military helicopter, flammable liquids, truck fires, and an airstrip.

Some non-fire related training equipment included Urban Search & Rescue (USAR), 4WD course, and low ropes course.

There were comprehensive theory facilities including seminar rooms, urban and rural TEWT (Tactical Exercise Without Troops) rooms, and other classroom training facilities.

Fire station

Fiskville was able to operate as a de facto tin shed fire station—it had no boundaries, but responded when neighbouring brigades requested its appliances (if available). The centre ran one Type 4 SEM Scania, an Isuzu Type 3 Medium pumper (NSW Back), an Isuzu Type 3 Heavy pumper, and a 3.4D Tanker. The old 87 Hino was retired in August 2013.

Cancer cluster allegations

In December 2011, former CFA chief Brian Potter alleged that dozens of cases of cancer and other illnesses, including his own, were linked to the use of water contaminated by chemicals at the Fiskville site. Potter died, aged 70, in February 2014.[8] In 2016, these claims were supported by a parliamentary inquiry established in 2014, concluding "epidemiological evidence suggests that the contamination at Fiskville is likely to have caused cancer and other illnesses" and "People who have been harmed by unsafe training practices at Fiskville have a right to justice".[9]


In initial response to Potter's claims, the Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, announced an inquiry headed by Professor Rob Joy into the allegations.[10] The report of Joy's inquiry was presented to the Country Fire Authority in late June 2012 and released shortly after with a response from the CFA.[11]

Joy concluded: "We found that the current situation at Fiskville is that these legacy issues need to be further investigated but there's no good reason to conclude that they pose any significant risk to anyone on the site at present. Certainly further work needs to be done and CFA have agreed to do that."[12]

However, in November 2014 a Monash University study, Fiskville Firefighters' Health Study, showed statistically significant heightened cancer rates in those associated with the Fiskville facility [13]

On 21 January 2015, the newly elected Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews, and the Minister for Emergency Services, Jane Garrett, announced the findings of the Fiskville Cancer Study and issued a media release titled "Cancer Cluster Found at Infamous Fire Facility".[14] The media release stated "Firefighters who worked at the Fiskville Training Facility have higher than expected rates of skin, testicular and brain cancer" and that "The Andrews Labor Government will ask the Parliamentary Inquiry into Fiskville to include the Monash report in its considerations. The Inquiry will also get to the bottom of how this occurred, how widespread the exposure was and who should be held responsible."

On 3 March 2015, the site at Fiskville was closed indefinitely after tests on two mains water storage tanks found low level traces of perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) from a banned firefighting foam. The chairman and chief executive of WorkSafe Victoria stood down at the request of the state government, due to concerns about the authority's handling of the contamination claims and its declaration that the site was safe.[15] On 26 March 2015, the Victorian Government announced that the Fiskville facility would be closed permanently, after new toxicology tests revealed high levels of contamination on the site.

In May 2016 the inquiry found that the firefighter's claims were justified, and that CFA management had knowingly used dangerous practices and been aware of the contamination for some time.[16]


  1. Ballarat Tourism's CFA webpage. Accessed 21 November 2008 Archived 24 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  2. CFA knew of Fiskville training centre contamination, inquiry finds The Age May 24th 2016
  3. Fiskville inquiry: Allegations water 'deliberately contaminated' at Victorian firefighting training base ABC News, June 15 2015
  4. Fiskville report: Firefighters deserve 'justice' over toxic CFA training facility, report findsABC News May 24th 2016
  5. Fiskville inquiry: Former fire chief denies railroading family into accepting compensation offer ABC News January 28th 2016
  6. Martin, Steve (26 March 2015). "Keep Fiskville Open Campaign". The Morning Show. ABC Radio. 774 ABC Melbourne. Archived from the original on 11 July 2015. Retrieved 14 August 2015.
  7. CFA Fiskville Training Centre Page. Accessed 21 November 2008 Archived 26 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  8. "CFA Fiskville whistleblower Brian Potter dies". ABC News. 13 February 2014. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  9. Fiskville report: Firefighters deserve 'justice' over toxic CFA training facility, report finds
  10. "Baillieu to call inquiry into suspected cancer cluster at Fiskville". Herald Sun. 7 December 2011. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  11. "Response to the Professor Joy Report of the Independent Investigation into the CFA Facility at Fiskville" (PDF). Country Fire Authority. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  12. Fiskville Independent Report Summary (Part 1) YouTube video
  13. Fiskville Firefighters' Health Study Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine
  14. Cluster Found at Infamous Fire Facility
  15. "Fiskville CFA fire-training facility closed indefinitely after chemical residue found in water". ABC News. 3 March 2015. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  16. CFA knew of Fiskville training centre contamination, inquiry finds The Age May 24th 2016

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