Tasmania’s Parks and Wildlife Service will not be equipped to fight bushfires this year because its vehicles can’t carry enough water, the Tasmanian Greens say.
Parks Minister Roger Jaensch says the replacement of vehicles was put on hold during COVID-19 but new vehicles have been ordered.
In State Parliament, Greens Franklin MHA Rosalie Woodruff said she had an email from management to PWS staff “warning against the use of the current vehicle fleet in the event of a fire”.
“It is our understanding that Parks’ management and you as minister have known for at least a year that the majority of vehicles in the Parks’ fleet used to carry slip-on fire tankers during the fire season exceed the vehicles’ gross vehicular mass, or GVM, after they have been loaded with a tanker full of water, pump and other essential equipment,” Dr Woodruff said.
“That is very concerning.
“Can you confirm Parks’ staff have been told by management that the interim measure to deal with the unsuitability of these vehicles in the event of a fire is to arrive at a fire with only a half-filled water tank?”
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Mr Jaensch said the PWS had identified that some vehicles in its current fleet may exceed the acceptable tolerances of the vehicles’ GVM when fully loaded with people, water and equipment.
“The equipment load and weight distribution can vary from vehicle to vehicle and standardisation of equipment and compliance with the checklists for each vehicle is an important re-equipment of the fire crew operators to ensure that vehicle GVM is not exceeded,” he said.
“The safety of Parks and Wildlife staff and its ability to carry out its firefighting function is the priority consideration in the ordering or new vehicles ahead of this fire season.
“PWS advises me that its capacity and its capability is not compromised as minor adjustments to each vehicle can be accommodated safely.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the government had had a year to address the problem and now PWS staff were “unprepared” heading into the fire season.
“Now the bushfire season is around the corner and the Parks and Wildlife Service is ill-equipped to tackle fires in the wilderness and remote regions,” she said.
“This is totally unacceptable, not only would it restrict our capacity to fight a raging bushfire, it puts those firefighters in increased danger.”
However, Mr Jaensch said PWS staff were specially trained, had specialist equipment and would safely manage loads in their trucks.