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Parking the car could cost a life

The Inner Western Suburbs Courier

Monday 7 February 2000

Parking problems Fire-fighters Scott Habgood and Peter Baker
By Robyn Asbury

OWNERS of illegally parked cars in Balmain's narrow streets are restricting emergency vehicle access, dramatically reducing 000 call response times and endangering lives and property.

With access restricted - and occasionally blocked - by illegally parked cars near kerbs and on the footpaths, fire fighters are being forced to park their vehicles several blocks away and carry their pumps and rescue equipment on foot.

Glebe fire station controller and Leichhardt Councillor Chris Windsor said most fires occurred at night and access became a problem when residents returning home battled Balmain restaurant and pub visitors for limited parking.

The owner of a vehicle responsible for delaying an emergency response, which should be about six minutes in Balmain could be fined up to $5,500 or jailed for two years.

In the event of a death, further action could he taken by the NSW coroner or Department of Public Prosecutions.

"It's endemic for Balmain parking, we understand that. but we are just trying to educate people who do this - it could be your house or your children that we're trying to get to," Cr Windsor said.

"It's the same with the ambulance service - it could be you having a heart attack," he said.

"As I said in Council, it's not a matter of if it happens - it's when," he said.

NSW Fire Brigades has asked Leichhardt Council to investigate ways of improving emergency vehicle access through the peninsula's narrow streets and lanes.

In a letter to the council, Superintendent Grant Allen wrote: "This situation has serious implications.

Fortunately, the difficulties faced so far have been associated with relatively minor incidents that were dealt with.

"If in the future our fire-fighting capacity is impaired by the inability to position the pumping appliance close enough to the fire, the consequences may prove much more severe."

Leichhardt Council's traffic committee is conducting a survey of the number of streets affected and investigating the cost of placing bollards along one side of these streets.

CAPTION: Parking problems Fire-fighters Scott Habgood and Peter Baker