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Firefighting ultra-heavy tanker test
A New South Wales Rural Fire Service 9000-litre heavy tanker with firefighting capacity was trialled south of the border, with great success, last summer.
The vehicle was put through its paces tackling grassfires in the Wimmera, Mallee, south west and north east of Victoria with feedback sought from all participating drivers and crew.
It responded to incidents and took part in planned burns. The Lismore and District Group was impressed with its performance during break burning, while its arrival in District 24’s Browns Plains Fire Brigade area coincided with a series of dry lightning strikes.
“A heap of fires dropped which kept the district busy,” said Captain Matt Partridge. “We rolled this vehicle with a portable radio and it went out with our medium tanker. It was very well set up with the monitor on the front and an extra nozzle so it could be driven to the fireline and the driver presses a button.
“It’s such a useful thing to have in an agricultural area where there aren’t so many people. We’ve got 16 to 20 active members but this vehicle can fight fires with just two or three people on board and the 9000 litres means a longer time between refills. It was easy to shunt water into other tankers so that’s a bonus when there’s not a water source close by.
“It’s a much bigger vehicle so be mindful where you take it, but most of our members drive heavy machinery all the time so that’s no stretch for us.”
CFA has committed to building two of the 22.5-tonne vehicles although changes will be made based on the trial feedback. Not being changed, however, is the bulbar-mounted remote control monitor which performed so well under pressure. The crew protection system will be altered to meet CFA standards. Those trialling it were impressed by the rear deck which allowed for crew to deal with blacking out any fire the front monitor missed.
“District 6 would be very, very keen to be involved in the build and trial process,” said Instructor Mike Evans. “Many people see this as the future of grassland firefighting in rural areas with the declining availability of volunteers to operate multiple smaller tankers.
“The longevity of the water for knock-down and wet-down for burning was a big feature and this would also apply to mop up. There’s also the possibility of using the tanker as a bulk water carrier and mop up truck to support bushfires or planned burns.”
The trial also visited metro South East Region where a forum at Pakenham Fire Station was attended by 30 to 40 volunteers who provided further feedback.
District mechanical officers around the state maintained the vehicle which was driven between locations by project officer Toddy Small. Operations Manager, Wildfire Planning and Forestry Industry Brigades Gary Weir oversaw the trial and welcomed all feedback.
“All districts were extremely supportive and mentioned the gap in the current fleet with water-carrying capacity,” said Gary. “There was a definite feeling that it filled a void missing within the current CFA fleet.”
Thanks to Gordon King for additional material.