This article is a guide to using private farm fire fighting equipment at fires in Australia. In 2001 a firefighter was killed in Victoria as a result of a farmer using a tractor and plough at a fire. This should have never happened and as a result, changed the way private firefighting equipment operate at the fire in Victoria Australia.
This article is a partial guide, and many other factors determine how firefighters and private equipment can work together safely.
Private firefighters and machine operators need to understand all the principles and apply them at the fire scene. We are going to discuss these principles in-depth in these sections.
Safety on the fire ground
One should make a plan to engage in firefighting before a fire outbreak. Make all necessary preparations before deployment. It is usual for private firefighters to get to the site before the local brigade. Fire services appreciate these; they might have even been able to put them under control. But the primary priority of firefighters is the safety on-site, therefore:
- Do not work alone.
- Take responsibility for your own.
- Be aware of the situation around you.
- Put on all safety gear, especially when handling special machines.
- Work under your limits and ability.
- Make sure your equipment is well maintained.
- Ensure the work you undertake is equal to your knowledge and that of your machine.
Directions for using farm fire fighting equipment at Fires
- Be physically and mentally ready
- You must be aware of the risks involved.
- You must have enough knowledge and skills.
- Dress in proper protective clothes.
- Be prepared to accept the outcome of your actions.
- Ensure the car is not overloaded.
- Make sure fittings and loads are secured
- Make sure the equipment is mechanically reliable and sound.
- Have all the recommended Safety communications and equipment.
When you choose to participate in firefighting as an individual, you accept the outcome of your actions. Every person has a shared responsibility for all persons on the fire ground. When difficult situations arise, it is wise to make your actions and decisions known and consult with others.
Be known that you are present.
When firefighting, it is essential to follow appropriate procedures. Well defined tasks may save the day. But, when the fire department is present, they are responsible for the safety of all persons at the site. And will take control of all significant decisions and advice on how to complete activities. If you are working for an agency, make sure they know of your presence, you must also cooperate and understand where your team members are if you arrive before the brigade. Such legislated responsibility and those private owners who don’t cooperate may find Police members taking action against them.
Firefighting success depends on all persons working together. When the fire grows in complexity, personnel and equipment will also increase. In contrast, the implementation of more formal structures ensures proper management of emergencies. Commitment and cooperation make the day.
Working with others will have to make personal decisions and take action, but always know you will have to take responsibility for such activities. Remember, you are not above the law, and safety must always come first.
We are working with others.
By firefighters and private owners working together, the work will be more comfortable and safer. You can help one another to avoid or overcome:
- Falling objects, hot surfaces, flames, sharp items, mines, and mine shaft
- High noise levels for long periods.
- Poor vision caused by smoke.
- Communication will also be more straightforward.
Assess the risk and avoid hazards
Being aware of and locating hazards is the first goal. It’s a dynamic situation, and an ongoing assessment of risk is required. Use your experience, knowledge, and common sense to make a choice. The hazards could include:
- Live power line
- Using machines in a rough environment or thick vegetation
- The radiant heat of high levels
- Heat-related issues such as dehydration.
- If the assessment shows the effects will be extreme, consider moving to safer areas.
They were wearing protective equipment.
It is essential that all persons, including individual equipment operators, be well equipped and clothed for fires. Fire clothes should cover all the parts of the body to prevent the entry of heat and embers while at the same time providing enough ventilation for breathing and cooling. Only when in a safe environment should you unbutton or remove but of the clothing for more cooling.
- Wear the following when at the fire scene:
- Natural or cotton fibre overalls with long sleeves
- Stiff leather boots, the best is a lace-up type.
- Leatherworking groves for rough environments
- Company helmets fitted with chin strap.
- Industrial king goggles.
- Hearing protectors and dust masks should receive consideration.
- Reflecting clothing may be necessary, especially for heavy machine operators.
Understand your limits
Firefighting can be difficult, both mentally and physically. It needs a sound mind with a high fitness level to handle the physical stress in an ever-changing and hostile environment. It can bring about high mental pressure with the need for fast decision making. Therefore, be sure to work within your limits; your training and experience determine this.
No equipment operator is above the law or exempt from it. When working in the firefighting industry, compliance with all laws, including traffic laws, is paramount. Secondly, if you will have to use any farm fire fighting equipment at sight, you should make sure:
- Your safety and that of any person’s presence is protected.
- The machine is capable and suitable for the task in a hostile environment.
- The equipment is reliable.
Vehicles for wet fire fighting
Vehicles should not be overloaded, as this is a big security issue. An overloaded vehicle will be harder to steer, have the less braking ability, and be unstable.
This vehicle should also:
- Have suitable communication devices –The vehicle should have a good quality UHF band radio or other suitable communication devices.
- Provide a first aid kit and also an excellent woollen blanket for personal protection.
- Have registration and roadworthiness to operate on public roads.
- The vehicle must have a pump, and both the car and the pump should be in excellent mechanical condition.
The criteria for vehicles for wet fighting applies here too, the safety of drivers is essential. They should also work on their limits when fighting a direct running fire. Operating very close to other larger firefighting vehicles is unacceptable.
Movement is discouraged when operating and should commence only when the driver is in a fully enclosed cabin. Tasks should be well considered because of their reduced stability, mobility, and maneuverability. No persons should ride on trailer units.
Farm machinery and implements/ Heavy plant and equipment
These machines always use dry firefighting tactics such as slashing, ripping, ploughing, harrowing, grading, etc. The standard rules for using personal equipment also apply here, but in places where a private individual is operating the heavy plant, notification fo the authorities.
The functions of private equipment operators may change according to the equipment needed, the physical effort required, the risk involved, and hazards present, but primarily they include:
- The first attack on the fire.
- Support – giving support for parallel and direct attacks
- Patrolling and blacking out operations.
A communication system is essential in making sure information about new instructions and strategies is easily transferred. Communication methods must pass information to the right persons and according to the language they understand. It would help if you asked your local brigade for the type, capabilities, and condition of communication devices you need according to their experience. Make sure to know the protocols of communication applying in your area.
Traffic management points (TMP) and Private equipment’s access are permanently established at the fire scenes to control traffic on the roads and the location. These management points are essential risk control tools to be used when fighting the fire.
Equipment Control Point Access.
If you bring personal firefighting equipment, then, in Victoria, Australia, a sticker must be issued to eligible vehicles, which meet the standards discussed above and those of your locality. Make sure to apply for the label before the fire season.
The private units will often be a ‘slip-on’ unit. Where applicable, ‘slip-on’ units must comply with the Equipment Guidelines and Specifications. Consult your local brigade for further information.
The main objective of farm fire fighting equipment operation on the fire ground is always the safety and the protection of life and property. Most of the information is common sense, but if not followed, it can have catastrophic consequences. If equipment sees use in the fire season to support your neighbours, please ensure you talk to your local brigade before, during and after a fire.