by John Robertson
On the evening of 14th November Paul set up yet another very realistic exercise for us. The assumed fire was in the Cedar Creek NP and was moving southwards towards the creek and the access road to threaten the properties there. It had jumped the initial control line some 200 metres to the north so our task was to put in a backburn from the park access road and thus to stop the fire at that line. All three trucks with full crews took part with Tony on Base Radio. The radio signals from 52 were mostly very weak at the Base whereas those from 41 and 51 were generally quite good. Subsequently Tony made the point that the aerials on 41 and 51 are on the cab roof but that on 52 is on the front passenger side bumper. This means that when the truck is pointing away from the target station most of the signal is absorbed by the metal of the cab. When that happens try to orient 52 so that the target station is not in the blind arc.
41 and 52 put in a long wet line and lit the drip torches on the road surface just to show that they worked. Hardly had 51 started its pump when an irate lady from a nearby house appeared and demanded that the noise be stopped. TM1 explained our need for training but decided that discretion was the better part of valour and 51 closed down. Paul has an uncanny knack of divining where a fire is likely to start and, given the massive fuel load in the forest at Cedar Creek, the question is only when, not if, fire arrives there. What will the good lady say then?
The plan had been for each truck to draft water from the creek but this was abandoned because of the objection to pump noise. 52 refilled 41 and then headed to Holt Road to refill itself. Kidd Street has for long been our principal refill point but its bore is having problems so we are giving it a rest. The Brigade has taken countless loads from there and a heartfelt ‘thank you’ is in order. Holt Street is a magnificent refill point with gleaming stainless steel tanks and an excellent bitumen road giving drive-through access. The refill hose is a big one with a 76 mm female camlock nozzle which can only deliver into the hatch on the top of the tank. The pump is electric with an ON/OFF switch. The reaction force is less than might be expected with such a fast flowing hose – over 1,000 litres/minute – but the hose itself is heavy. Refilling is a minimum 2 man job with 3 being better. That said, we have a splendid new high-speed water point.
Roll forward to the 21st and Paul had arranged a comprehensive drafting and portable pump session to make up for what we were not able to do on the 14th. All three trucks with full crews went to the St Bernards pond. The first exercise was using the portable pump from 51 to feed water to 52 which in turn fed it to 41 which ran the hose. No water was used from the truck tanks. Each crew rotated through each of the three locations. Then each truck crew did a Case 4 from the pond. All went well and we got an early mark for return to the Station. Thanks to Paul for two more first rate evenings.