Fuel reduction burn, Retakunna cabin, 2018

Fire season preparation is well underway

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As the fire season nears, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service (PWS) staff have been busy with the annual fire season preparation program. Fire season preparation includes a broad range of activities such as: updating policies and procedures, assessing fire season outlooks, preparing rosters to ensure a balanced number of staff are available to respond to bushfires, recruiting seasonal firefighters, assessing staff fitness levels, checking and purchasing new equipment and personal protective equipment and most importantly upskilling new and developing staff for a range of fire-fighting roles.

The PWS trains staff in the Public Safety Training package units for fire-fighting at Certificate II, III, IV and Diploma level which ensures that DPIPWE staff are meeting national standards for training in fire roles and work well within Interagency Incident Management Teams using the Australasian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS). PWS staff are highly regarded and sought after for senior incident management roles and deployments for management of incidents interstate.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) refreshers and first aid training continues in the regions and aviation training in working safely around aircraft, undertaking hover entry and exit operations and conducting external load-lift operations, will commence later this month.

At the end of August, PWS held a Fire Behaviour Analyst Workshop for experienced and developing fire behaviour analysts, commonly referred to as FBANS. These people are critical in providing forecasts on fire-spread and assessing the values that are likely to be impacted. This information is used to determine an appropriate fire response strategy. Aspiring Sector Commanders, Planning and Logistics Officers attended training recently at Tarraleah and a training course for planned burning operations was also conducted in late September.

LandTasmania provided training to around 70 staff in the use of web and mobile mapping applications. In emergency and incident response work, these apps enable real-time collection of intelligence from the field. This training focused on a number of highly regarded applications that are utilised across Australia including some specifically tailored for use within our State.

Fire preparedness training days have been completed in the south, north and the northwest during which many staff have received certificates for their qualifications, in particular for Certificate II in Public Safety Fire Fighting along with a commemorative medallion for those staff that worked on the 2018-19 bushfire response. These are important days for the fire management section to brief staff on the upcoming seasonal outlook, any new policies or procedures, address any work health and safety matters from the previous fire season and it enables the refresher courses to be conducted on equipment that staff might not have used for a while.

It’s really important to stay physically and mentally fit to undertake fire-fighting duties so staff around the state have been encouraged to commence their ‘get fit’ training for the season (at least 30 mins exercise, three times a week). The annual pack-hike test is designed to challenge an individual’s muscular endurance, strength and cardio-respiratory fitness. It was devised to mimic the physiological strain encountered during bushfire suppression using hand-tools. Bushfire fire-fighting staff undertake a timed walk over a set distance with a weighted pack at a pace of approximately 6.5km per hour.

The minimum level of fitness required to enter the fire-ground in any capacity is the ‘moderate level’. Moderate test involves a 3.22 km walk carrying 11.3kg in 30 mins. This is the standard set for tanker based fire-fighting. The arduous test is used for remote area firefighters and involves a 4.83 km walk, carrying 20.5 kg in 45 mins.

The arduous test is aptly named, as these staff will be prepared to go out in teams with their gear, up and down Tasmania’s rough and remote terrain.

It is reassuring to have so many staff preparing for the fire season, a big thank you to all involved!