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Traralgon firefighter to research US mine fires
A CFA firefighter from Traralgon will travel to the United States on Sunday 11 September, to study coal mine fire prevention, detection and suppression, aiming to bring back a range of new ideas to implement on home soil.
Traralgon Fire Brigade Senior Station Officer Gavin Parker will use a $6000 scholarship from the Emergency Services Foundation to complete his research.
The three-week trip will take Mr Parker to areas including North Dakota, Montana, Chicago and Pennsylvania, where he will meet with firefighters, scientists and other experts to build an understanding of how they prevent, detect and fight coal mine fires.
“Brown coal open-cut mines are unique in Australia and confined to a relatively small area in the Latrobe Valley,” Mr Parker said.
“As we’ve experienced most recently from the Hazelwood mine fire, the impact of fire and other emergencies at such large-scale sites can have wide ranging financial and health impacts across the local and broader community.
“In the US, there’s a much greater presence of big industrial sites including power stations and under-ground coal mines, so they’ve had more opportunities to learn valuable lessons – sometimes the hard way such as the Imperial Sugar refinery incident in Georgia in 2008, which killed 14 people and injured 38 others.
“I’m hoping to gain valuable insight into the latest innovations in industrial firefighting and prevention, which may involve everything from specifically designed trucks and equipment to detection software.”
Mr Parker has been a CFA career firefighter for 22 years and a volunteer for 45, where he has attended four major coal mine fires, and other minor incidents at coal mines.
He has developed a training program to use thermal imaging cameras when fighting fires, and created a one-day course focussed on using these cameras to train firefighters in South Australia and NSW.
“I’ve had a long-term interest in identifying best practices for firefighting operations in brown coal open-cut mines, coal handling and power generation facilities,” Mr Parker said.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity to expand my knowledge and hope to bring back valuable strategies and insight, which will enable CFA to better protect the Latrobe Valley community.”