New tankers in the line of fire

New tankers in the line of fire

01 October 2010

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Australia —  AVOIDING the prospect of a tanker starting a grass fire is as easy as learning how to use a handbrake says Steve Smith from the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).

Reports new bushfire tankers being delivered to brigades across the state cannot be parked near long grass due to the potential for their exhausts to start a fire were yesterday refuted by local RFS managers.

A number are based in the RFS Canobolas Zone.

“Do we see it as an issue, absolutely not,” Mr Smith, Canobolas zone operations officer, said.

“Some people are upset and say we’ve got a fire truck that can start a grass fire but, the reality is, anything mechanical has the potential to start a grass fire.”

Because of increased environmental standards, the new Isuzu tankers are fitted with a filter to trap exhaust smoke.

The filters can cut emissions by up to 80 per cent.

However, the filters slowly become clogged and need to be cleared, or “burned-off”, every 300 or so kilometres.

Concerns have been raised that during the final stages of that process, the exhaust could become so hot a fire could be triggered should the tanker be parked near long grass.

“When it does get clogged the engine’s computer senses it and an indicator comes up telling us it’s time to do a diesel particulate reduction,” Mr Smith said.

“If that happens on a fire ground, what we would do is take the tanker to a burnt-out area or somewhere where there’s lots of dirt to let the vehicle’s computer carry out its cleaning process.

“It’s not an issue, it’s just another mechanical operation, much like putting a handbrake on.

“We live in a brand new world where we’ve got to keep up with technology.

“In a new truck you’re gaining an asset that can get to 100km/h nearly as quickly as a car, it’s more reliable, more practical and more functional.

“This is just a small part of the management cycle and if people are familiar with it, there won’t be an issue.”

“It’s just a matter of the RFS drivers being aware of it.

NSW RFS commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said all firefighters had been talked through the features of the tankers and had been given a two-page guide explaining how the cleaning process worked.

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