VICTORIANS may be better served by a single fire-fighting agency, the Bushfires Royal Commission has heard.
Senior counsel assisting the commission, Jack Rush, QC, said there was abundant evidence of problems maintaining the Country Fire Authority and the Department of Sustainability and Environment as separate firefighting bodies.
Mr Rush suggested that public money was being wasted in using different mapping, information, training and IT systems.
"The evidence led and to be led, on one view, demonstrates a great cost to this state, a cost in terms of the seemingly massive duplication of resources and infrastructure and a cost in that a two-tier system … demonstrates a preparation and response to bushfire that does not maximise resources and that compromises command and control," he said.
Mr Rush said the community would be "intrigued" to learn that within the supposedly joint headquarters of the Integrated Emergency Co-ordination Centre, the CFA and DSE have separate operating staff and different logistics, planning and information sections.
"The evidence points, one may think, to a fragmented approach, a lack of cohesion, a less than optimal outcome," he said.
The commission has previously heard that the CFA and DSE have different training systems for incident controllers, and that fire information on Black Saturday went on their websites at different times.
In its interim report, the commission recommended a single multi-agency site for all fire information.
The CFA is the lead agency for fires on private property in rural areas, while the DSE oversees fires in state forest and public land. The Metropolitan Fire Brigade deals with city areas.
Mr Rush said the geographic boundaries between the MFB and CFA appeared to be "idiosyncratic", with suburbs such as Aspendale and Frankston under the jurisdiction of the CFA, while neighbouring Mordialloc was covered by the MFB.
Mr Rush said the possibility of a state-wide fire service would be examined by the royal commission.
A single agency has the support of the United Firefighters Union, representing metropolitan and paid CFA firefighters. State secretary Peter Marshall said a merged fire service was "long overdue".
A proposal from Volunteer Fire Brigades Victoria, representing CFA volunteers, said the CFA should be made responsible for the overall management of any bushfire, regardless of territorial boundaries.
This already occurs in other states, such as New South Wales and South Australia.
The Victorian Government declined to comment on the prospect of a single fire-fighting agency.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.