Chopper drops in to bushfires

Chopperdrops in to bushfires

14 February 2007

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Australia — Some may be under the false impression National Parks and Wildlifefield officers spend most of their days saving wombats.

This could not be further from the truth.

Try this on for size – being winched down beside a raging bush fire from ahelicopter with a backpack, safety gear, 24 hours worth of food, first aidsupplies, rake ho, splash mat, an axe, water and a series of tools hanging fromyour body, including the chainsaw you are to use to cut the trees away so youcan land in remote bush.

Once on firm ground, the field officer’s job is to cut away a clearing largeenough to make a helipad in the remote bushland throughout Australia so up to 30or 40 fellow workers can be transported to the site.

Once settled, a gruelling routine begins, fighting fires three days straight,for 12 hours a day, then a day off to rest, wash clothing, attempt to recuperateand hit the inferno again for another 3 days of the same until the bushland issafe and the fires under control.

This is the routine life of 30 National Parks and Wildlife officers trainedin remote fire fighting in Ulladulla.

Ulladulla senior field officer Terry Parmenter is one of 800 trained firefighters within National Parks services trained in helicopter safety, winch andhover entry and exit, remote first aid, fire competency and chain saw operations.

“Remote fire fighting involves a lot of manual labour,” Terry,after 28 years of remote fire fighting, said.

“It is very physical, hard, dirty, specialised work.

“We are trained in so many areas, that the second you are being loweredinto the bush from the helicopter, training just kicks in.

“National Parks is renowned for very experienced fire fighters andgenerally things don’t go wrong so fear isn’t usually an element.

“Parks ensure stringent safety issues, so instead of being afraid, weare thinking ahead, checking for safe refuges, getting to know the ground.

“We all have radios and keep in contact, an air-attack supervisor iskeeping everyone informed at all times.

“Everyone is looking out for each other, we have burning trees, fallingtrees, several tons of water being regularly dropped and the helicoptersgenerating a wind that often fells branches so you have to be on the ball.

“We all know what we are doing, safety issues, strategy and trainingensure we work as an effective team,” he said.

It is these teams of National Park employees who spend much of their workinglives keeping bush fires under control by knocking out hot spots, looking forsmall pockets of fire, and tending lightening strike fires in remote bushlandssuch as recently in Sassafras, Brogo, Blackheath, Wadbilliga National Park,Wollomai, Snowy Mountains, Holbrook, Tumut and local fires like Yatte Yattah.

Bush fires in Australian bush occur all year round.

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