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Westernport Group prepares its fireground leaders
Over the weekend of 21 and 22 October, strike team leaders and sector commanders from Westernport Group met in Flinders to undertake skills maintenance and train on new field equipment the group has acquired over the past six to 12 months.
Wildfire Instructor Graeme Briggs had devised a fire in the Mornington Peninsula National Park that was being contained by Forest Fire Management Victoria with CFA resources undertaking asset protection on private land, incorporating community engagement.
The weather on Saturday morning was promising with sector commanders meeting to obtain a brief and then move straight into the field to devise sector plans to deliver to strike team leaders the next day. This briefing was delivered using the group's new forward operating vehicle. The vehicle allowed the briefing to be delivered using EM-COP and mapping functions on the outside 40-inch touch screen monitor. Those present were also given a demonstration of the capabilities of the vehicle and the on-board cameras.
Once this was complete the morning was spent reconnoitring the division which has been set up for the exercise. The topography of the area set the sector commanders some challenges in regards to potential fire behaviour, asset protection and access to remote areas, which led to some great discussions among the sector commanders before meeting back at Flinders Fire Station for lunch.
After lunch some robust discussions took place to devise sector plans and divide the division into three sectors based on common risk and topography. Some excellent discussions were had around State Control Priorities and their definitions, the importance on community engagement and information, communication difficulties and the utilisation and deployment of limited resources.
On Sunday morning, the sector commanders were joined by strike team leaders under grey skies and light rain. Luckily, the group was able to use the engine bay of the new Flinders Fire Station to start the morning with equipment and vehicle familiarisation.
With the majority of the group's fireground leaders in the one spot, it was a good opportunity to also get the five FCVs the group uses for strike teams in to ensure all were familiar with the vehicle layouts and different models. The group is fortunate to have access to FCVs from Hastings, Langwarrin, Crib Point, Mornington and the Group FCV.
The group spent the next 30 minutes looking over the vehicles and ensuring the equipment was up to date before being introduced to the new field iPads which the group had purchased through a VESEP grant.
The timing of the delivery of the field iPads was ideal as they had arrived the week before to be loaded with software. The FCVs and FOV are being supplied with an iPad and charger. Each iPad has been loaded with HEMA mapping software and assigned individual email addresses.
This new technology now allows Westernport Group fireground leaders to send and receive current information to the Divisional Command Point and Incident Control Centre. This combined with the capabilities of the forward operating vehicle improve our information flow like never before.
After taking time to familiarise everyone with the new equipment, Instructor Graeme Briggs delivered a briefing and everyone moved into the field under light rain which eventually cleared to sunny skies. The strike team leaders were tasked with asset protection in each sector and spent the remainder of the morning becoming familiar with the challenges in each sector.
As the skies cleared, everyone met back at Flinders Fire Station for lunch and spent the afternoon discussing strategies and tactics for each sector and the challenges unique to each area, which included some in-depth discussions on limited access to one sector due to a narrow bridge and tree hazards overhanging a one lane road that lead to the bridge.
Westernport Group would like to thank Wildfire Instructor Graeme Briggs for his planning and work over the weekend, the Flinders Fire Brigade for the use of their facilities and the members of the group for giving up their weekend to crew the FOV and improve their knowledge.