Fighting fire with early detection and rapid response technology

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With fire season underway, our strategy for bushfires remains focused on early detection and rapid response.

Drier El Nino conditions have been declared for the current spring to early summer period and our number one priority is ensuring staff are prepared and ready to respond quickly and safely to fire incidents. 

The Tasmanian Government Radio Network (TasGRN) is now operational and being utilised for PWS incidents and, in a first, the TasGRN Interoperability Talkgroup was utilised at the recent Friendly Beaches fire, which enabled communications between Tasmania Police and Fire Agencies for co-ordination of road closures and improve multi agency situational awareness in a highly dynamic environment.

This fire season sees the introduction of a new Forward Command trailer to our firefighting arsenal, increasing our ability to support fire teams in remote locations and improve the flow of communication between teams working in the field and incident control.  The trailer was actively deployed and put through its paces at the recent Friendly Beaches fire and was able to share and transmit critical information from the field about fire location, status, and on ground conditions.

Acting as Division Command and Air Base Manager at the same time, the trailer is covered in solar panels and has several lithium batteries with power management systems and generator support. This means operators can use it for extended periods remotely to gather and transmit information about fire location, status, and conditions through the Starlink satellite internet and TasGRN capabilities, and view all of that data as the incident evolves on large 55-inch touchscreen monitors on the trailer.

Technological advances around satellite detection and ground-based camera detection have resulted in us working with a local IT company to develop a deployable camera and weather station unit for fire detection and response.

This state-of-the-art equipment, named 'Remote Engineered Camera Communications Evolution' (RECCE), was designed by our very own PWS engineers, and weighs less than 800kg, allowing the unit to be slung into place by a small helicopter and pre-positioned in remote areas.

When in position, the units can be used to continuously survey the landscape, post dry lightning events, for smoke detection. The aim is to minimise overall bushfire impacts by early detection of fires, allowing the possibility of early extinguishment while fires are small.

The RECCE units can also be deployed retrospectively to active incidents to provide live video feed and weather and improved situational awareness, to enhance safety for responders and incident management teams.

Following a successful trial of the prototype over winter, PWS have worked with local manufacturers to construct RECCE-2 and RECCE-3 and are working with interagency and private operators to provide further cameras and create a collaborative network of early detection technologies across the Tasmanian landscape.

The mobile Forward Command trailer and the RECCE units will add to the PWS' 61 light tankers, 3 medium tankers, and 2 heavy tankers.


Published 8/12/2023