News & Media

Mentoring through TEWTs

By: Leith Hillard

Category: Training & Recruitment

  2.13 PM 9 November, 2012

Location: District 24 News

Views: 1915

Two years ago, Leading Firefighter Andrew Schulz initiated a series of mentoring tactical exercises without troops (TEWTs) to get District 24 crew and strike team leaders warmed up for the fire season.

“They might not have been deployed in the role for a few years,” he explains, “so we needed skills maintenance so they’re prepared to have people and vehicles under their control. We’ve arranged sessions that had a mix of experienced and inexperienced members with about 30 people at each and it’s been a chance to share stories in a relaxed setting.”

The sessions begin with a general discussion of fire behaviour, rate of spread and the calculation of slope as well as covering decision making and conflict resolution in brief. “Then we get a bit more technical,” continues Andrew. “We look at tactics if you have a 10 kilometre an hour fire, for example. It might slow down at 10:1 ratio when it gets into forest so we talk through those rules of thumb.

“District 24 is fairly diverse in its topography from alpine to flat country and river forests. It’s only natural that brigades from each area would have a different slant on how to combat a fire.”

The sessions then switch from tactical to practical with the fire table lit. “We’ll go through a range of scenarios,” says Andrew, “with the wind speed changing or the place of origin. OK, the truck gets a flat tyre; one of the crew has an asthma attack; you get a red flag warning – what do you do?

“Experienced members talk about previous fires and there might be three different approaches that will all lead to getting the fire out. It’s not a precise science and it all leads to some great conversations. People are generous and give us the chance to learn from their mistakes – they might tell us what they did right and wrong in a similar situation.

“My training helps me identify if people are hanging back and we bring them into the conversation. It’s an open forum.”

And it’s popular. The program attracted 30 people in the week before Christmas last year. 

"The first session this year was held last weekend [early November] and it went very well," says Andrew. "The next one tomorrow [Saturday 10 November] is filled beyond capacity and I'm still getting requests for more attendees. We might have to run extra sessions next year."

‘Tis the season to be prepared.

Thanks to David Brown for photos.

Last Updated: 11 November 2012