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Sparks fly over new Country Fire Service chief

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A British fire and emergency service veteran has been named SA’s Country Fire Service Chief Officer, despite CFS volunteers’ concern about his selection process and experience of Australian conditions.

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The State Government this morning announced Mark Jones would lead the CFS, saying he had three decades of experience working with volunteer organisations.

Jones’ most recent role was Head of Resilience and Specialist Assets for London Ambulance, and he previously worked on European and United Nations committees regarding fire policy development and emergency planning.

He has worked with the International Firefighters Association, Buckingham Fire and Rescue Service and the Australian Capital Territory Emergency Services Agency.

Within this role in Canberra, it was reported Jones conducted a confidential review of ACT Fire and Rescue services and suggested recommendations regarding cost-saving and efficiency targets.

Minister for Emergency Services Corey Wingard today said that Jones was highly-credentialled and would be an asset to state emergency services.

Emergency Services Minister Corey Wingard and new CFS Chief Officer Mark Jones. Photo: supplied

“I look forward to working with Mr Jones in ensuring the CFS can continue the excellent work it does for all South Australians,” he said.

But senior members of the Country Fire Service Volunteers Association (CFSVA) earlier this week posted a letter on Facebook about the appointment and “current direction of the South Australian Emergency Services sector”.

“The CFSVA was invited to have one representative on the selection panel,” the letter said.

“The CFSVA’s representative was provided with clear directions by the CFSVA Board as to key criteria required of the next CFS Chief Officer, which included that the appointee should hold proven experience in leading a volunteer emergency service work force similar to the CFS, and also extensive knowledge and understanding of the Australian topography in relation to fire behaviour.”

“The CFSVA’s representative reported to the CFSVA Board that they were unable to sign off on the ‘preferred candidate’ as it was their firm opinion that the CFSVA Board’s directions and key criteria were not met.”

In a letter sent today to CFS volunteers and staff, seen by InDaily, Wingard said he was “disappointed” by the CFSVA using the “public arena” to air “apparent grievances” about Jones.

“This is despite my office having repeatedly requested to meet with the CFSVA since 24 June 2019. An invitation which, despite follow up by my office, has not been accepted,” Wingard wrote.

“The recommendation provided to the Government for the appointment of Mr Jones followed a public advertisement campaign and was independently reached by a panel, chaired by the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment, Erma Ranieri.”

But Greens MP Tammy Franks also today weighed in on Jones’ appointment, likening it to an April Fool prank.

Jones said he was “keen” to “meet the volunteers we depend on” at the CFS, and is expected to begin the role in October.

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