Our fire crews have bolstered their capacity to respond to fires in remote areas with an additional 35 personnel undertaking winch training this season.
Tasmania’s remote terrain presents is a challenging landscape for firefighters. Winch capable crews have proven critical to accessing firegrounds where traditional methods proved difficult. Previously, crews would get as close as possible to the fire with an aircraft, land or hover exit, then walk the rest of the way, exposing them to extended operational times and risks.
Recently, 19 PWS fire crew and 16 regional staff members undertook a nationally accredited two-day winch training program. Going beyond the basics, PWS conducted additional training sessions exposing crews to thicker tree canopies and longer winches including capable of carrying specialist equipment.
This comprehensive training provides a realistic experience, preparing the winch crew for the diverse challenges they may face during bushfire response.
The crew put their skills into action on 15 December when responding to a bushfire ignited by lightning strike, south of Reynolds Falls in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The remote location's steep and densely forested valley offered no suitable places to land the aircraft or execute a hover exit. Following a thorough assessment, the crew was deployed via winch and felled the impacted tree and effectively extinguished the fire with the assistance of the helicopters Bambi bucket. After thorough checks with a thermal camera, the aircraft winched the crew out.
The operation lasted about four hours and showcased the effectiveness of winch operations in accessing challenging terrain in a swift and efficient manner.
The crew's success is a testament to the benefits of rigorous training and preparedness.