Bulletin No: 003 | 3 January 2019



  • The UFU is very concerned that UFU members who attended the West Footscray fire and were exposed to the toxic plume of smoke generated by the fire are not getting the best possible medical screening and treatment.
  • The UFU is aware of at least one instance where the level of care provided by the BMO appears to have to dropped below the standard of care required by a medical practice that is charged with looking after firefighter welfare.
  • The member concerned suffered an intense and continuous headache since attending the Fire. It was only upon his third visit to the BMO, and after he complained about the service, that the BMO referred him for appropriate medical testing and specialist appointments.
  • We are informed that the BMO incorrectly advised him that there were no serious issues and only treated him by administering pain medication. Further testing conducted by a neurologist has proven that this is not the case and that the member has a growth on his spine, requiring further testing and treatment.
  • Firefighters are deployed to protect the community in an unknown environment which could result and has often resulted in the firefighter sacrificing quality and quantity of life due to the unavoidable risk of exposure to toxic chemicals. As can be seen by the above, the treatment of our member by the BMO can only be described as disgraceful.
  • The UFU has also spoken to a number of other members who have conveyed similar experiences of a substandard level of medical care by the BMO system.
  • For these reasons, until the matter is resolved, we have informed the MFB that we will be instructing our members it is in their best interest to report to their family doctor or alternatively Epworth Hospital Casualty Department, if they are experiencing symptoms from attending the West Footscray Fire.
  • The Union will also be disseminating a form letter which the member should hand to the medical practitioner. This letter will state that the firefighter attended at the West Footscray fire and include the following information:
    • That the fire was a chemical fire with unknown quantity and types of chemicals
    • The dates the firefighter attended
    • The symptoms experienced by the firefighter
  • Symptoms that have been conveyed to the union consist of, but are not limited to:
    • sore throat
    • runny eyes
    • extreme headaches
    • chemical burns
    • blood noses
    • fatigue
    • sinus problems
    • lack of coordination
    • fogginess
  • In the interim, we are working cooperatively with the MFB on this issue, and are in discussions with the MFB in regard to engaging a toxicologist to determine the extent and type of testing that needs to be done. However, members should not delay seeing their family doctor or attending Epworth Casualty while this process continues.
  • The BMO has let our members down badly and we have requested urgent discussions with the MFB about the suitability of the current BMO regime.
  • The Union will also be sending out instructions on how to complete a WorkCover claim and we request all members who attended that fire fill out a WorkCover claim whether they are currently experiencing symptoms or not.

Strength in Unity

Authorised by Peter Marshall, Branch Secretary