Farmer Ned Callow is battling the CFA over smoke risks from its Fiskville station

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Neville Callow, whose farm is next to the CFA training facility Photo: Jason SouthEvery time smoke from the Country Fire Authority’s (CFA’s) Fiskville training centre billowed over Ned Callow’s property, the front of his head started to ache.

“Then it felt like someone was grabbing you around the throat,” Mr Callow says.

The 60-year-old owns a farm that adjoins the training centre, which was temporarily shut down on Monday due to contamination of the water supply.

The site has a chequered history of dangerous chemicals and a high rate of cancer among firefighters who trained and worked there.

Mr Callow has been stuck in a 12-year battle with the CFA about smoke inundating his property.

He does not live at the site permanently but has gradually built a house there and stays at the site at least once week and nearly every weekend.

He also has livestock, including stud Belted Galloway cattle and 50 head of sheep.

The smoke from the training drills also triggered severe asthma attacks in his daughter and he believes it has caused four nodules growing on his lungs. His PSA count, a measure used to detect prostate cancer risk, is also through the roof.

“It’s from the smoke. I used to put up with, and that was when they used to burn hundreds of tyres,” Mr Callow said.

“They have just tried to bully me, to the point where we were having heated arguments.”

His anger is aimed at management, not volunteers, he stresses.

The latest chapter of his battle ended on the weekend after the CFA threatened to take him to the Supreme Court unless he removed signs he had erected on his property.

The sign read, “CFA. No more CFA smoke and fumes. Stop killing us.”

A letter from the CFA ‘s Lex de Man threatened Supreme Court action over the signs, which had “unsubstantiated and mischievous remarks which are untrue.”

Not wishing to engage in an expensive court battle, Mr Callow removed the signs.

Previously, a deal with the CFA to buy his land had also fallen through after senior management rebuffed local managements offer, Mr Callow said.

CFA chief executive Michael Wootten said the authority was aware of Mr Callow’s concerns and the organisation would continue to work with him on solutions.

“CFA has strict protocols in place to reduce the impact of smoke on neighbours from the Fiskville training centre,” Mr Wooten said.

“Neighbours are advised of the hot fire training schedule before it takes place.”

Depending on the weather, the CFA would adjust planned training to reduce impact on neighbouring properties, he said.

Monitoring is also in place to measure any possible contaminants within smoke generated by training.

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