by John Robertson
Neville and Robbo, in TM51, took part in the new-look FM1 course on Sunday 1st and Sunday 8th October. Fitting FM1 in with ordinary training is difficult and, in our Group, has not really worked hitherto. The Gold Coast Group, under the leadership of Coomera Valley, has developed a system that works. About 90% of Gold Coast firefighters now have FM1. They provided the team of trainer/assessors for this course.
The core of the course is a full Sunday, 0800 to 1700 on site, with a large prescribed burn. Preliminary to that Sunday are either two full weekday evenings or one short Sunday. Each candidate needs to read all seven of the QFRS training manuals, answer the written questions therein and provide evidence that they have done the designated activities. That adds up to a lot of work but it is well worth it for people serious about firefighting. It is especially demanding on those who have a busy job and/or a young family. Also required for assessment is evidence of all the fires and training sessions that the candidate has attended and what roles he/she has taken. Here our computer program comes into its own by providing the necessary evidence print-outs. The alternative is a handwritten notebook with each entry signed off.
The course on Sunday 1st was at Tamborine RFB Station and was run by Brett Bain of Coomera Valley. This was mostly classroom work with many oral and written tests. Emphasis was on firefighter safety and the concept of the “Dead Man Zone”. This is the area within 5 minutes spread time of a fire. The dramatic video showed that a wind change which turned a flank fire into a wide head fire could enclose firefighters within the ‘dead man zone’ in moments. Sadly many firefighters have died as a consequence. The merits of working from the black whenever possible (and thus automatically out of the dead man zone) were underlined. Brett is an excellent trainer and we were very fortunate to have him.
Sunday 8th was the big day and was at Logan Village RFB. Brett was joined by four other assessors from Gold Coast. Karen was an observer. There were 15 candidates and they were divided into 5 teams each with a vehicle. Neville and Robbo were joined on TM51 by Ashley Bell from Tamborine. Our assessor was Phil Young, First Officer of Gilston RFB – another outstanding firefighter.
The assessors emphasised that assessment was going on every minute of the day. Teamwork, safe working, radio procedures and firie knowledge and skills were being judged continuously. In any otherwise quiet moment Phil would ask us questions. Some of those went well beyond what is required for FM1 but they were all very relevant to good firefighting. The first part of the day was a series of vehicle checks done as a team. Then on to the fire briefing.
The fire was run by Logan Village RFB. Simone was OIC and other LVRFB officers were the Sector commanders. The site was quite near the Station at the end of Yore Road. It had a hydrant at the entrance to the site – what luxury! The prescribed burn was a roughly square 28 hectare bladey grass paddock with some trees in the southern part and a house on the southern edge. The wind was from the north-west and the plan was to start the burn, into wind and backed by a wet line, along the south flank then light up on the north flank and let the fire with the wind behind it burn itself out on the black to the south. With a few customary hiccups this all went according to plan and the 28 hectares were largely burnt out when we left – topping up at the hydrant in passing. LVRFB members patrolled and mopped up. The assessors kept an eye on how much water each team had drunk – our team, unlike the others, got a tick.
Back at the Station there was a late lunch sandwiched with question and answer sessions and followed by a de-brief on the fire. Then came Case 4 for every individual. And so finally to the paperwork. A cynic might be forgiven for thinking that the objective of FM1 is to smother any bush fire in bumph. Be that as it may Phil was happy with the performance of the members of our team. We wait to see what emerges when QFRS digests it all.
A big vote of thanks goes to all the Assessors for their time and skill and especially to Brett and Phil.