I-Zone Training Exercise with Auxiliaries at St Bernards
by John Robertson
Traditionally the Auxiliaries supply us with water at large bush fires and we do the same for them at big structural fires. This has especial relevance on the Mountain where we have no piped water. Similarly we stand by at a structural fire which may spread to the bush and the Auxiliaries stand by to protect structures which may be threatened by a bush fire. Modern doctrine for an I-Zone takes this further and looks to members of either Brigade being able to operate their counterparts’s equipment in demanding situations.
On the evening of the 19th March we went to the Auxiliary station for an exercise briefing and practice in the use of their large-capacity portable pump and its hoses. This was in preparation for a joint exercise on the 26th at St Bernards Hotel. This was to use the upper floor of the East wing of the hotel which is now unoccupied although the lower floor is still fully occupied. The scenario was that a kitchen fire had been extinguished but that very heavy smoke was in the upper wing with reports of two adults and a child being trapped. The role of the Auxiliaries, using full BA gear, was to search for and rescue the trapped people while an urban pumper stood ready to extinguish any fire which re-ignited. The main role of our Brigade was to take the big urban portable down to the pond on the creek below the hotel, connect the urban hoses and pump water up to the Auxiliaries as required. Paul, our only member who is BA qualified, was to join in the Auxiliary search.
At 1500 on the 26th Robbo helped Tony Trinca to set up the smoke generators and place the dummy people in the disused hotel rooms. The Brigade assembled at 1730 and took all three trucks and 14 members to the Aux station for briefing at 1800. This was given by a senior QFRS officer and was as per the plan for the BA search but not for getting water from the creek. This was to be done by an urban pumper. The exercise was started by a page from Firecom whereupon the trucks left the urban station for St Bernards. The search went well with three sessions all of which found and rescued the “trapped people”. This was highly commendable because access was difficult and the smoke, at least for the first two sessions, very thick. Paul, in BA, did a top job as always.
Our Brigade had to find itself a staging post because one had not been designated and did this in the Motel car park. We stood by while an urban pumper attempted to access the creek. It tried to do this on the side remote from the hotel and fortunately did not succeed; if it had, a difficult FWD recovery tow would have been on. After some more half-baked efforts by others we returned to the original plan and TM1 was authorised to get our Brigade on the job. TM52 with Roger as crew leader picked up the urban portable, took it to the creek by the correct route, did the extensive priming needed and was ready to deliver water in 12 minutes from the off. This episode showed the merits of sticking to a good plan and not trying last-minute and ill-considered variations.
The exercise ended with a de-brief for all by QFRS and then, for us alone, by John. We returned to the Station with a drenching downpour in progress and the Group meeting occupying the training room. After much brushing out of water we got the trucks back inside and dispersed. This was a good evening which, notwithstanding the initial glitch, showed how effectively we and our urban cousins can cooperate.