- Latest news
- South West
- South East
- North East
- North West
- Media Releases
- Community Safety
- Events / Fundraising / Offers
- Incidents - Bushfire
- Incidents - Other
- Incidents - Structure
- Incidents - Vehicle / Rescue / Hazmat
- Vehicles / Equipment / Buildings
- Operational Information
- Planning & Research
- Training & Recruitment
- Youth & Juniors
- Health & Safety
- CEO Updates
- Chief Officer Updates
Work smarter not harder: Mitchell Group exercise
A training day for the Mitchell Shire group of CFA brigades yesterday (Sunday 22 November) gave more than 75 firefighters from 10 brigades the chance to practise vital skills ahead of what promises to be a challenging summer.
At least 20 members of the group have recently joined CFA and are now on the cusp of their first fire season. These newbies worked alongside more experienced mentors, many of whom in turn were being mentored to step up into leadership roles
An air of quiet focus pervaded as firefighters rotated through three stations at the State Motorcycle Sports Complex at Broadford, each centring on a skill set central to bushfire response – grassfire tanker tactics, water point operations and working in the bush.
Mitchell Shire Deputy Group Officer Pip Johnson, performing the role of incident controller on the day, said the exercise had been carefully structured to allow every participant the chance to stretch themselves in a safe environment.
“When organising this exercise we targeted members who had completed their Minimum Skills this year,” she said.
“Everything we’re doing today will help them know what to expect.”
Pip said the training exercise was treated as if it were a ‘going’ fire, with standard chain-of-command and radio communication protocols applied.
“As far as possible we are trying to simulate how things would be run at an escalating incident, so as incident controller I’m making sure we are managing information flow and tracking the movements of our strike teams,” she said.
“It’s about getting people, especially the newer members, used to how things unfold on the fireground.”
CFA Instructor Tony Scicluna, who ran one of the three sectors in the exercise, talked crews through techniques for blacking out – the work done by ground crews to ensure ground recently burnt by a fire is fully extinguished.
Tony’s mantra was all about working smarter not harder when it came to carrying out this often thankless work.
“Get it done quickly, get it done well, and then go home,” he said, pointing out the importance of working to the conditions, and advocating for the renewed use of ground spears which inject water straight into the ground.
“When the ground is this dry it completely loses its ability to absorb moisture. You can pour 600 litres of water on to it to deal with a hot spot and that water will just run straight off. It won’t help you at all,” he said.
The grassfire tanker tactics sector, meanwhile, gave crew drivers the opportunity to rack up valuable driving practice handling different terrains – experience critical to gain in ‘peace time’ considering the pressures faced during a fire.
Wrapping up the morning in spectacular fashion, Pilot Shane Holmes landed a Kestrel Helitak (water-bombing helicopter) at the Speedway Oval, before stepping out with Air Attack Supervisor Andy Arnold to chat to the group about integrating their response on the ground with aircraft working ahead.
Once again, safety, teamwork and good communication was the order of the day.
“On the radio, just treat us like another tanker up in the air,” said Andy, “but remember the perspective is very different from up here, especially when there is smoke. We need your help to identify where the risks and hazards are – power lines are the worst culprits.”
Crews were reminded to stay well clear of the drop zone and listen to sirens.
“A full load coming down will take your head off,” said Andy.
The dozens of hungry firefighters were treated to a good quality and well-deserved feed courtesy of the Broadford Snack Attack catering unit, under the capable hands of Margie White.
The Mitchell Shire Group Exercise 2015 was attended by members from Broadford, Tallarook, Hilldene, Toobarac, Glenaroua, Wandong, Whiteheads Creek Tarcombe, Kilmore, Clonbinane and Wallan brigades.