More Victorian bushfire trucks shielded for burnovers

By Paul Hemsley

Victorian Minister for Police and Emergency Services Kim Wells has announced that upgrades to the Country and Fire Authority’s (CFA) fire trucks to protect the fire fighters from deadly burnover will be extended to include more appliances.

A “burnover” is when a fire has surrounded a brigade crew and their truck, providing no route of escape and has been an urgent problem that has prompted fire authorities to look to implement new technologies that reduce the risk of injury or death in the face of a blaze.

The CFA is one of the world’s largest volunteer organisations with 98 per cent of its 60,000 members being volunteers.

Its fire trucks initially received a $23 million grant from the state government in January 2012 under the three-year Crew Protection Retrofit Program to upgrade the radiant heat protective curtains, water spraying systems, heat shielding panels and intercom systems in the fire trucks built prior to 2006.

It was an upgrade to the vital protective systems of the trucks following the devastating “Black Saturday” bushfires that engulfed the state in February 2009, which resulted in the deaths of 173 people including one fire fighter.

All fire trucks that were built and procured after 2006 already had the protective features built-in, which played a significant part in protecting crews from injury or death during the fires of February 2009.

Under the 2012 retrofit program, 844 fire trucks built prior to 2006 with a capacity of 1,000 litres of water received the new crew protection systems. However due to the upgrades being delivered ahead of schedule, the government will fund the same kind of retrofitting for an additional 74 trucks.

The announcement of the upgrade extension has followed the recent switch from analogue to digital communications for CFA fire fighters in preparation for the federal government’s national analogue-to-digital broadcasting spectrum change at the end of 2013.

This change is meant to allow fire fighters to communicate directly with brigade headquarters instead of having to go through a local group communications officer to give important information about the status of an incident and the location of crews.

Mr Wells said the program to protect fire fighters from burnover will ensure people on the front line are better equipped to safely take shelter in their trucks.

“The Coalition Government is proud to support CFA volunteers by providing them with the facilities and equipment they need to save lives and property,” Mr Wells said.

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