Industrial award finalist’s design was born of fire

Industrial award finalist’s design was born of fire

04 April 2010

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Australia —    It looks like something out of Mad Max and its name means ”The Rainmaker”, after a 16th-century Cherokee chief. Could the Amatoya be Victoria’s fire-truck of the future?

The sci-fi-looking vehicle, a finalist in the Australian Design Awards, is designed to match the mobility of a 4WD with the firefighting capacity of a large tanker. It is unlike anything in the Country Fire Authority fleet.

Black Saturday survivor Liam Ferguson, a Monash University student, designed the Amatoya after seeing fire crews struggle with the February 2009 bushfires. The insulated cabin is designed to withstand temperatures of more than 600 degrees. Unlike the trucks in the present CFA fleet, two high-powered water cannon can be operated from inside the cabin, so crews can fight fires even from the middle of a blaze.

Mr Ferguson, 24, said he designed the truck after several months of talks with CFA volunteers about the need for new technologies.

He was almost overcome by bushfire at his parents’ home in Hazelwood South, on February 7 last year, despite being prepared with a water pump, high-capacity hoses and 40,000 litres of water. ”Within seconds we were completely surrounded and had no other option but just to defend ourselves. At one point we thought we were not going to make it,” he said.

The CFA, despite an ”amazing effort” in the area, ”weren’t able to access us because they didn’t have the resources or the vehicles that were able to move around quickly enough throughout the fire”.

He hopes his design could help save people from similar strife. The winner of the Australian Design Award-James Dyson Award will be announced on June 4.

Industrial design lecturer Mark Richardson, who oversaw the design of the Amatoya, said firefighting technology had to improve to match the increased ferocity of bushfires.

The futuristic Amatoya would mark a sharp detour for the CFA fleet.The Amatoya carries 2300 litres of water, four times more than the CFA’s present scout vehicles, which fight spot fires but are not designed to protect a crew caught within a blaze. The CFA’s large tankers carry between 2000 and 3750 litres. Mr Richardson said the tankers were too big and cumbersome for rough terrain. Neither vehicle allows firefighters to operate hoses from inside the cabin.

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