Country Fire Authority

Country Fire Authority (CFA) is a fire service in Victoria, Australia, with other fire services being Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Metropolitan Fire Brigade (MFB). The CFA provides firefighting and emergency services to rural areas and regional towns in Victoria, and to portions of the outer suburban areas of Melbourne not covered by the MFB. Australian emergency services, including the CFA, can be summoned to assist by dialling the primary emergency service telephone number, 000. Mobile phones also allow a default emergency number, 112, to be dialled.

Country Fire Authority
Operational area
Agency overview
Established1945 (1945)
Annual calls46,485 (FY 2017–18)
1,321 career
34,586 volunteer
1,351 career
20,483 volunteer
(FY 2017–18)
Facilities and equipment
Official website


Considered in terms of loss of property and loss of life, the Black Friday bushfires on 13 January 1939 fires were one of the worst disasters to have occurred in Australia and certainly the worst bushfire up to that time. In terms of the total area burnt, the 1939 Black Friday fires remain the states second largest, burning 2 million hectares, 69 sawmills were destroyed, 71 people died, and several towns were entirely obliterated.

The subsequent Royal Commission conducted by Judge Leonard Stretton has been described as one of the most significant inquiries in the history of Victorian public administration. Its recommendations led to sweeping changes including stringent regulation of burning and fire safety measures for sawmills, grazing licensees and the general public, the compulsory construction of dugouts at forest sawmills, increasing the forest roads network and firebreaks, construction of forest dams, fire towers and aerial patrols linked by the Forests Commission radio network to ground observers.

Premier Albert Dunstan and Forests Minister Albert Lind decided there was no alternative but to ask Judge Stretton to chair a second Royal Commission examining the deadly Yallourn fires in 1944. The report amongst many things highlighted a lack of cohesive firefighting ability outside the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade area.

Legislation to establish the Country Fire Authority was passed on December 19, 1944. On the same day, the State Premier Albert Dunstan announced that Mr A. M. King of Ballarat was to be appointed Chairman for the first year along with 12 members of the Board.[1] The Board of the new authority met for the first time shortly after on January 3, 1945. They divided Victoria into 24 Fire Control Regions as well as appointing Regional Officers but the organisation had very rocky first beginnings.

The CFA then took responsibility for fire suppression on rural land leaving the Forests Commission to focus on the public land estate. The CFA also took responsibility for supporting existing fire brigades many of which had been established in the 19th or early 20th century.[2][3]

The CFA operates under the Country Fire Authority Act of 1958, as amended, and its regulations. The Act has been amended many times since its initial establishment, most recently in September 2015.


Since July 2013, fire services in Victoria have been funded by a fire service property levy on council rates. The CFA budgeted income for 2013–14 was $473m, of which $448m was provided by state government contributions, and $25m was internally generated (fees and charges, interest, donations, and sales of goods and services).[4]

Additional government funding can be provided for specific staffing or training improvements, major works, or during long-duration incidents. The CFA also receives some funding from the provision of goods and services to external bodies, including Fire Equipment Maintenance (FEM). Individual brigades receive further funds from local councils, from their own fundraising activities and through donations from the community. Brigades may invest money to serve as an interest-earning vehicle, providing financial security against fiscal downturns. Some fire brigades hold large amounts of community funds to cover costs not met by CFA. These costs might include, but are not limited exclusively to, additional firefighting equipment, maintenance, improving or replacing facilities (including fire stations) and brigade-owned vehicles. Groups and brigades have also worked together with district support staff to provide financial or practical support to brigades and groups in need.[5]

CFA structure

The Country Fire Authority is established under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 (most recently amended in September 2015). The Authority is controlled by a board, and falls under the portfolio of Victorian Legislative Assembly Member, The Honourable Lisa Neville, the Minister for Emergency Services since November 29, 2018.[6]

At 1 October 2018, CFA personnel included 34,597 volunteer firefighters, 1358 career firefighters, and 1466 administrative, instructional and supporting paid staff.[7]

The Authority is controlled by a 9-member board, which includes a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.[8]

CFA's current CEO is Dr Paul Smith.[9] CFA's current Chief Officer is Steve Warrington, promoted from his previous position as Deputy Chief Officer.[10]

Regions and districts

The CFA field of operations in Victoria covers an area of more than 150,000 square kilometres and a population of 3.3 million people. It divides its operations into 5 regions, which are then subdivided into 21 districts. Each District comprises Groups of Fire Brigades.[11] The CFA regions are:

  • Loddon Mallee Region (North West)—districts 2, 14, 18 & 20
  • Grampians Region (West)—districts 15, 16 & 17
  • Barwon South-West Region (South West)—districts 4, 5, 6 & 7
  • Hume Region (North East)—districts 12, 13, 22, 23 & 24
  • Gippsland Region (South East)—districts 8, 9, 10, 11 & 27.

Fire brigades and resources

CFA resources include 1,220 brigades, of which 941 are rural volunteer brigades, 204 urban volunteer brigades, 37 integrated brigades (stations manned by career firefighters and volunteer firefighters), 23 forest industry brigades, and 17 coast guard brigades.[12] The CFA's integrated fire brigades are in Ballarat City, Belmont, Bendigo, Boronia, Caroline Springs, Corio, Craigieburn, Cranbourne, Dandenong, Eltham, Frankston, Geelong City, Greenvale, Hallam, Lara, Latrobe West, Lucas, Melton, Mildura, Mornington, Morwell, Ocean Grove, Pakenham, Patterson River, Point Cook, Portland, Rosebud, Rowville, Shepparton, South Morang, South Warrandyte, Springvale, Sunbury, Tarneit, Traralgon, Wangaratta, Warrnambool, and Wodonga.[13]

CFA operates more than 4,000 vehicles, including 1,970 4WD tankers, 264 pumpers, 5 hydraulic platform trucks, 4 aerial pumpers, 28 rescue tenders, 16 hazmat vehicles plus numerous other vehicles including communications vans, lighting trucks, command and transport vehicles. This fleet is supplemented by more than 1,400 brigade-owned vehicles. Brigade-owned vehicles are paid for by local communities, sometimes with the assistance of government grants.

The state government also lease a large fleet of firefighting aircraft to assist brigades throughout the busy Summer fire season. The fleet comprises rotary and fixed wing aircraft, from small single-engined planes up to Very Large Aerial Tankers, based on commercial passenger jets. These aircraft are shared with other fire and emergency agencies such as DELWP.

The CFA has 1,200 base radios, 5,800 vehicle radios, 3,000 hand held radios, 35,000 EAS pagers, 58 satellite terminals and 10,700 pre-conference telephone interceptors.[13]

Coast guard brigades

In 2005, the CFA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard to establish CFA coast guard brigades.[14] Under the MoU, all Victorian coast guard vessels will have CFA radios installed, EAS (Emergency Alerting System) pagers as used by the CFA as well as basic firefighting tools including a small pump and hoses.[15] Additionally all coast guard members are to receive basic CFA firefighting training and some land-based brigades will receive marine firefighting training.[13]


In Victoria, the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) provides dispatch and call-taking services for Police, Ambulance, State Emergency Service and both rural and metropolitan fire services. ESTA operates over three sites, located in Melbourne CBD, East Burwood, and Mount Helen, in Ballarat.

Many ESTA practices and protocols are standardised across all emergency services, allowing all agencies to utilise the same computer network. This enables complete and instantaneous information sharing between emergency services.[16] ESTA is also responsible for Victoria's State Emergency Service call-taking and dispatch for non life-threatening storm damage or flooding via 132 500.[17]

When a caller dials 000 for emergency response within Victoria, an operator will connect them to the relevant ESTA facility, where call-takers collect information from the caller for entry into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Using this information, a dispatcher will respond the appropriate emergency resources. Services are often already being notified by the dispatcher while the call-taker is still obtaining further information or giving advice, such as guiding the caller through CPR (Cardiopulmonary resuscitation).

When ESTA is notified of an incident, they send an emergency message via pager to firefighters. While this is usually the result of a call to 000, brigades or appliances may also be dispatched by other agencies such as Victoria Police or Ambulance Victoria, or at the request of an Incident Controller on scene. Brigades are dispatched based on various factors including the time of day, location and type of fire or incident. Although each fire brigade has a primary response area, support brigades are often dispatched to ensure a prompt response. Specialist vehicles may also be dispatched, especially for incidents such as for road accident rescue or large structural fires where the response is anticipated.

Fire districts

Victoria is divided into nine fire districts:[18]

  • Mallee
  • Wimmera
  • South West
  • Northern Country
  • North Central
  • Central
  • North East
  • East Gippsland
  • West and South Gippsland.

The CFA announces fire danger ratings, total fire ban declarations and fire restrictions, which apply to all municipalities within a fire district:

  • The Fire Danger Ratings are forecast for four days.
  • A Total Fire Ban is declared for each district by CFA on days when fires are likely to spread rapidly and could be difficult to control, and means that no fires can be lit for the declared district for that day—irrespective of the Fire Restriction status for a given municipality.
  • Fire Restrictions come into force when entered into the Government Gazette.

Operational Ranks

CFA provides separate rank structures to cater for volunteer firefighters and career firefighters. Not all CFA positions are listed.

Operational Ranks for Volunteer Firefighters
Administrative Ranks for Volunteer Firefighters
Group Officer
Deputy Group Officer
Operational Ranks for Career Firefighters
Chief Officer
Deputy Chief Officer
Assistant Chief Officer
Operations Manager
Operations Officer
Senior Station Officer
Station Officer
Leading Firefighter
Senior Firefighter
Qualified Firefighter

Proposed Changes

On 19 May 2017, Premier Daniel Andrews and Minister for Emergency Services James Merlino proposed changes to the Victorian fire services.[19] These changes include rationalisation and realignment of fire district boundaries as well as changes to the structure of fire fighting services within the State of Victoria.[20]


"CFA's regional training campuses allow firefighters to experience operational scenarios, including live fires, in a safe, controlled and realistic environment. This is essential in developing and maintaining skills needed to fulfil the mission of protecting lives and property in Victorian communities."[21]

The CFA operates seven Regional Training Campuses:

In May 2017, CFA announced the construction of a new training facility near the town of Ballan, about 70 kilometres West of Melbourne. The new Ballan training grounds will be utilised predominantly by CFA's volunteer firefighters, as CFA's career firefighters now attend the VEMTEC college in Melbourne's Northern Suburbs. Expanding urban and industrial zones inside CFA's areas of response, are necessitating the building of additional integrated fire stations and the employment of more paid staff.

Career firefighters are employed following an exhaustive selection process. They commence with a 19-week course, learning basic firefighting and emergency handling skills, before being posted to initial "transitional" positions, where they are introduced to on-station life and work practices. They must then complete a station-based probationary learning period, followed by 4 years of practical and theory subjects relevant to the occupation. Firefighters achieving this level with sufficient subject marks, are promoted to the rank of Qualified Firefighter. They may then commence studies for assessment and promotion to the ranks of Leading Firefighter, Station Officer and Senior Station Officer.

CFA's volunteer firefighters must complete Wildfire "minimum skills" course, prior to being deemed competent to respond to fire and emergency calls. Progression to Officer ranks at the volunteer firefighter level occurs following election by fellow Volunteer Fire Brigade members.

Major incidents

The CFA has been involved in a number of major fires over the years where lives have been lost, including:

CFA deployments have also assisted during interstate fires such as the 2002 Black Christmas bushfires fires in Sydney and the 2003 Canberra bushfires. In late 2015, CFA firefighters were deployed to the South Australian fires, in support of CFS and SAFS crews. During February and March 2016, hundreds of CFA volunteer firefighters and some career firefighters were deployed across Bass Strait, where they assisted Tasmanian firefighters working on the North West Tasmanian fires. Many CFA firefighting, communications and specialist vehicles were ferried over as well.


The CFA is involved in responding to non-fire incidents, in addition to firefighting operations. CFA has a leading role in prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of fires and other incidents.[22] The CFA is responsible for combatting all fires on private land in Victoria outside of the Metropolitan Fire District, including Structure Fires and Bushfires. The CFA has a shared responsibility for rescues with the Victorian State Emergency Service and the MFB. In addition to response activities, CFA members also run prevention programs such as Fire Ready Victoria[23] and Fire Safe Kids. Fire Safe Kids is an education program for Pre-Primary and Primary School students which teaches Fire Safety and the Role of Firefighters in the Community.[24]

CFA is responsible, along with other Victorian emergency services, for some specialist response functions, including:

  • Confined Space Rescue
  • Trench Rescue
  • High Angle Rescue
  • Road Accident Rescue
  • Industrial Rescue
  • Urban Search and Rescue (USAR)
  • Aviation Response
  • Marine Response
  • Hazardous Materials Response
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological (CBR) Response
  • Emergency Medical Response (EMR)
    Thanks to a $46.7 million contribution by the State Labour Government, the EMR program has been expanded to all Integrated CFA Fire Stations. Paid firefighters are EMR trained to respond to medical emergencies, improving the chance of the patient's survival. The EMR program sees paid firefighters and paramedics dispatched at the same time to assist in life-threatening medical emergencies."[25] Three Volunteer Brigades, namely Berwick, Edithvale and Whittlesea, are also "EMR Qualified" and may be called upon to assist Ambulance Victoria.

Representative Bodies

Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria (VFBV) was established under the Country Fire Authority Act 1958 to represent Volunteer Fire Brigades, working with CFA and the Victorian Government to ensure ongoing commitment to the Volunteer Charter.[26]
The Victorian Branch of the United Firefighters Union of Australia (UFU) was established on 22 January 1911 and represents paid firefighters throughout Victoria.[27] Volunteer firefighters may join the UFU as associate members. The UFU funds valuable research into firefighting technologies to benefit both paid and unpaid firefighters.
In November 2016, a third representative body came into being. The Victorian Volunteer Firefighters Association (VVFA) was established 4 October 2016,[28] and represents individual volunteer firefighters, a move stemming from recognition that VFBV focus on brigades as a whole, rather than on individual volunteer members. Most CFA Volunteer Brigades are members of VFBV. A small minority have chosen to stay as non-members of VFBV.


VFBV organise, promote and conduct the Urban and Rural State Fire Brigade Championships. In this series of exciting sporting events, Volunteer brigades compete in challenges based on past and (modified) current firefighting practices. In 2019, the Rural State Championships will be held at Bendigo, on 6 and 7 April. The 2019 State Junior Championships will be held at Kerang, on 23 and 24 February. The upcoming State Urban Championships are going to be in Bendigo from 9 to 11 March 2019.[29]

See also


  1. "Country Fire Authority Members Announced". Argus. 19 December 1944.
  2. History – Country Fire Authority (accessed 30 September 2015)
  3. History - Country Fire Authority (accessed 30 September 2015)
  4. "CFA Funding". Archived from the original on 3 April 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  5. "CFA pulls together to help dairy communites". CFA. Archived from the original on 3 September 2017. Retrieved 2 September 2017.
  6. Ansell, Benjamin (29 November 2019). "Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews unveils reshuffled cabinet with 50 percent women in senior positions". Nine News. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  7. "CFA "At a glance"". CFA. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  8. S 6F, Country Fire Authority Act 1958, authorised version 151 (23 September 2015)
  9. CFA welcomes new CEO Dr Paul Smith (accessed 11.21 AM 07 November 2018)
  10. CO Steve Warrington message (accessed 4.17 PM 28 July 2016)
  11. Editor Sigley, G. (2008). Brigade Magazine, Winter Edition. Country Fire Authority.
  13. CFA Annual Report 2013. Accessed 10 April 2010
  14. Conference Proceedings Website. Accessed 21 November 2008
  15. CFA Annual Report 2008 – Operations Report. Accessed 21 November 2008 Archived 2 June 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Centralised service for triple-0 calls". 30 November 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
  17. Emergency Call-Taking & Dispatch Accessed 06 October 2016
  18. Find your fire district
  19. "Fire Services Bill – Parliament Victoria website" (PDF).
  20. "CFA committee submissions" (PDF).
  21. Training Campuses Environmental Management & Safety Accessed 06 October 2016
  22. CFA Annual Report Report of Operations Archived 26 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 21 November 2008
  23. Fire Ready Victoria Archived 26 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 21 November 2008
  24. Fire Safe Kids Accessed 06 October 2016
  25. [ More CFA stations now EMR capable]
  26. Our Role VFBV 29 July 2016
  27. 100 Years of the United Firefighters Union UFU Victoria 22 January 2011
  28. VVFA About Us
  29. "Upcoming Urban Championships". VFBV.
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