A FIREFIGHTING instructor at the CFA Fiskville training facility says he fears for the long-term health of firefighters who have trained, or are currently training there.
The trainer, who wished to remain anonymous, said he had seen signs of health problems related to practices at the site, near Ballan.
‘‘I noticed a few rashes on people’s arms, nothing significant,’’ he said.
‘‘I assumed the rashes were connected to the problems going on there, but I can’t say for sure.
‘‘The bulk of problem however is the long-term damage to firefighters, not the short term.’’
It comes as the Country Fire Authority last night released a long-awaited report into a suspected cancer cluster at its Fiskville training facility — and admitted it had made errors.
However, the centre is to remain open.
The independent report by Professor Rob Joy examined the use of chemicals for live firefighting training at the site between 1971 and 1999.
Health concerns were first raised last December, after firefighters claimed they had developed cancer from chemical exposure at the site.
Firefighters used to burn a range of waste oils containing toxic chemicals as part of their training. Concerns were also raised about the quality of recycled water used to put out the fires.
‘‘What took place at Fiskville, and to a lesser extent at our other regional training grounds, was not good enough and we regret what happened,’’ said CFA chief executive Mick Bourke in a statement last night.
‘‘The report finds that events and practices that took place then, would not be acceptable today.’’
Mr Bourke said he was committed to making changes to ensure the ‘‘ongoing health and safety’’ of firefighters but the report found the CFA was late to adopt important health and safety practices.
‘‘Personally, I found the fact the CFA was slow to take the opportunity for improvements disappointing,’’ he said.
‘‘A lack of rigorous systems and processes still needs addressing in the CFA today and I want this report to be a catalyst for this to take place.’’
Mr Bourke said the report was a ‘‘crucial first step in determining if past practices had links to ill health in members’’.
‘‘It gives us a much better understanding of chemicals used at Fiskville, how they were used and stored and which groups of people had the highest risk of exposure to them.’’
Mr Bourke said the next step would be a ‘‘health impact study’’ to examine past practices and potential health risks.
But he said the report found that for the ‘‘vast majority’’ of people who trained at or visited the Fiskville facility, their exposure levels likely posed ‘‘low to negligible risk’’.
Full-time firefighting instructors may have been at ‘‘high risk’’ and volunteer and regional instructors had ‘‘medium risk’’ of exposure.
Mr Bourke said that the report identified the need for further water and soil testing, and possibly decontaminating the site.
Professor Joy’s six-month inquiry involved 324 interviews, accessed around four million documents and cost $4 million.
The CFA received Professor Joy’s report a fortnight ago, but opted to release it publicly last night, along with its response.
The United Firefighters Union has asked the state government to do all it could to assist those affected.
— with Ben Cameron