The first 10 of 30 volunteer firefighters to be trained in remote area firefighting were put through their paces on the weekend, including exiting helicopters on challenging terrain.
The cohort of volunteers were chosen from 190 applicants and will provide support for the 100 Tasmania Fire Service remote-trained career firefighters, and 80 from Parks and Wildlife, for the upcoming summer.
Wilderness fires caused widespread loss of vegetation in 2018-19, putting the spotlight on the state’s ability to respond quickly in remote areas. Establishing a volunteer remote force was among the recommendations from a report into that fire season.
Acting district officer for air operations, Matt Lowe, said the volunteers would play a part in attacking fires in waves.
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“Our initial attack this year will be attacking fires when they’re really small,” he said.
“The chief’s mantra is for a wave of attack, so initially hit the fire with aircraft then we deploy remote area crews so they can get a quick hold on those fires and extinguish them before they grow.”
The volunteers were put through their paces at the Cambridge Aerodrome on Sunday.
Tasmania has also added five more firefighting aircraft, and a helicopter has been fitted with equipment to pass intelligence back to command, including following dry lightning strikes which caused the vast majority of wilderness fires almost two years ago.
Fire and Emergency Management Minister Mark Shelton said remote firefighting presented a range of new challenges for volunteers.
“Remote area firefighters have to be, of course, experienced in firefighting but they also have to understand the other issues that they’re going to face when they go out as a team in a remote area to fight a fire,” he said.
“Some of that deployment could be up to five days, therefore they have to work as a team out in a remote area, they have to have the ability to carry lightweight pumps and hoses and things into where they’re fighting, or be carted into the helicopter and put wherever the fire is.”