Crack fire team on standy to protect life and property
BEING winched down from a Rural Fire Service helicopter through heat and smoke in order to extinguish a bushfire that fire trucks can’t access due to rugged terrain, is all in a day’s work for this crack team.
As the mercury rises and hot and windy conditions sweep across the region, a squad of specialist firefighters are on standby with their helicopter, ready to fly and be winched down to attack and extinguish a bushfire before it spreads across the landscape.
It’s a tough, hazardous, grimy and incredibly intense role, but these dedicated firefighters are ready to protect our community.
Rural Fire Service Northern Zone Inspector Boyd Townsend said the Remote Area Firefighting Team (RAFT) personnel were currently situated at the Casino airport.
“We have RAFT crew here with a helicopter and if needed they will get dispatched to conduct a direct attack,” he said.
“The team comprises ground support from Owen Byrnes with crew Peter Cram, Morgan Fraser, Todd French and Brendon Smith aboard the Bell 412 helicopter and there’s two helicopter crew.”
Insp Boyd said the RAFT firefighters use dry firefighting techniques such as creating firebreaks by cutting earth trails or undertaking backburning work and involved them working in a self-supporting manner, bringing in their own food, drinking water and equipment.
He said decisions to deploy RAFT were only made after thorough risk assessment with detailed analysis of fire behaviour.
“We also have a fixed-wing aircraft out of Armidale doing a lightning check in case the storm on Tuesday night started any fires,” Insp Boyd said.
“Their flight plan will cover the region to look for unidentified smoke.”
He said people needed to keep updated on the fire danger rating as well as any Total Fire Bans which he expected would be declared over the coming days.
“Early predictions are for severe fire weather for the region,” he said.
“We expect temperatures to be in the low 40s on Sunday in some parts of the region, with a dip on Monday and then back to very high on Wednesday.”
He said people should keep alert with the Fires Near Me app and if they saw a fire unattended by firetrucks, call Triple-0.
“Avoid slashing or driving through grass,” he said.
“The heat produced could ignite and easily start a fire.”