“I am usually in a farm fire unit patrolling around the fire, keeping an eye on hotspots, doing infrastructure repair if required. We communicate with the CFS trucks and help them navigate around the properties and find water sources.
Our role is quick response, information gathering and combatting grassfires generally. If you have more training, you’re probably going to be on a truck.
Having the local knowledge and quickness is the advantage of us fire units. The big problem during this summers’ fires was that we had lots of mainland trucks who didn’t have that local knowledge. Generally we are ignored, really, because we don’t have any official authority, even though we have the superior, vital knowledge of where water and potential escape routes are.
A lot of trucks from the mainland are trained in their local area and they know how to deal with that, which is good and that’s what they need to do. Most fires are small and you’re not gonna be travelling everywhere in the state. But fires over here, and how to fight them, is a little bit different because we have so many creek lines and so much scrub.
In the west of the island we generally deal with a lot of fires. I have fairly good equipment on my private farm fire unit including an adequate water capacity, a pump and suction hose to refill my tank anywhere rather than relying on others. I always have a bag of personal protection equipment ready to go. It’s not always up-to-date or the best but at least I got something. Something is better than nothing. Some people are getting around in synthetic fibre clothing, t-shirts, shorts and thongs; all sorts really. It would be great if everybody at least had a box or bag, like the CFS, you can grab quickly and go—knowing it’s all in there.
What I consider a vital thing to have with you is a fire bug. Because backburning used smartly can be an excellent method of combating the fire. I think it needs to be utilised more.
I don’t have any fear or trepidation going into this summer. It is a normal part of life over here, just another summer. You can never prepare enough though. My biggest concern is that we haven’t learned from the previous fires on a government level.”