In mid-January three new Prinoth oversnow vehicles were unveiled in Dandenong. They will be used as alpine pumpers by CFA’s alpine brigades.
This orientation session was hosted by Engineering Project Manager Joel Read, who explained what the vehicles’ bodies will look like after they have been built. A wide range of CFA members looked over the vehicles including people from the alpine brigades, CFA operational staff, Fleet, PE staff (including a district mechanical officer) and a representative from CFA’s driving and training team.
There was also the opportunity to ask Prinoth representatives questions and test drive the machine.
The Victorian Government’s Fire Services Statement identified that CFA needed to replace some of the specialist vehicle fleet that’s currently at Mount Hotham, Mount Buller and Falls Creek for several reasons including outdated ergonomics and poor reliability.
A series of sessions was held with the alpine brigades to understand their capability needs, followed by a tender process to source new vehicles.
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Infrastructure Services Engineering Team decided that the Prinoth Panther T6 was the most appropriate for brigades.
“It’s very car-like to drive,” Joel said. “It has a steering wheel rather than a joystick which means more members of the brigades will be able to drive them.”
It has a maximum speed of 15km an hour and several safety features including rollover protection for the cabin, it can’t be driven unless the seatbelt is worn, and when the driver’s foot comes off the throttle the brakes automatically apply.
The machines were assessed for their mobility in alpine conditions, payload, ergonomics and ease of servicing by district mechanical officers. They will be able to access water points and have a hydraulically-driven pump to provide the required amount of water for incidents.
The bodies will now be built in time for the upcoming snow season, ensuring they are suitable for the alpine environment - for example, when the pumping operation finishes, all water can be drained from the plumbing manifold to ensure the water doesn’t freeze and damage the piping.
“Firefighting and responding to emergency incidents in the alpine environment is extremely challenging,” Joel said. “With approximately 8,000 beds at each of the resorts, the risk is high, and to respond on a snow-covered road to access a chalet requires specialist equipment.
“It’s a testament to the specialist skills the alpine brigades have.”
These vehicles are funded under the State Government’s $60M investment in the Victorian Fire Services, as part of the 2017 Fire Services Statement.