A FORMAL handover of vehicle keys was loudly applauded as Matt Viney MLC Member for Eastern Victoria officially presided over the presentation of the State’s second-only cab-chassis mounted ‘big fill’ fire fighting appliance to Toora Fire Brigade.
The audience of Toora Country Fire Authority (CFA) volunteers led by Captain David Scammell, friends, and CFA Gippsland General Manager Malcolm McKenzie was swelled by the presence of invited guests.
These included Cr Jeanette Harding of South Gippsland Shire, Rob Stallard of Esso Australia Pty Ltd Barry Beach Marine Terminal and John Stone of Toora Community Bank Branch of Bendigo Bank.
The primary purpose of a big fill appliance is to act as a mobile water fill point with very fast pumping capabilities that significantly reduces the turnaround time for replenishing empty tankers.
Captain Scammell explained, “The pump is capable of pumping 1,900 litres per minute, which fills one of our tankers in just two minutes instead of the previous 10 minutes and that makes a lot of difference on the fire ground.”
The big fill can quickly draw water from hydrants, mains, water tankers, tanks and in-ground water points such as dams and rivers, and then pump it into fire tankers, water tankers, collar tanks or wherever needed.
Alternatively the water can be sucked up and directly hosed from the big fill appliance onto a target.
To cope with the potential range of water sources and water destinations, cabinets fitted onto the vehicle chassis store a wide array of fittings and adaptors so the vehicle’s capacity can be connected with rural or metropolitan fire-fighting vehicles as well as some private tankers such as milk tankers being used to assist with transport of water for fire fighting purposes.
In addition to the standard flashing lights and sirens, the big fill appliance has a roof-mounted flashing green light which identifies the vehicle as a water fill point and a portable green strobe light that can be placed at an intersection to alert vehicles trying to find the big fill in low-visibility conditions.
Equipment stored in the lockers also includes a generator, powerboard, lights, rake-hoes, a range of hoses, floats, water filters and crew food/drink supplies.
Since the appliance’s delivery in December, Toora CFA has used it while attending car accidents, as a communications vehicle at community events, for advanced driver training, for pumping training, as an incident coordination vehicle and even as a means of transporting Santa to Toora’s Christmas party!
Being a V-8 turbo-charged car and only requiring two crew members, the big fill appliance can reach an incident faster than the brigade’s trucks.
Cost & thanks
In total, the new appliance cost $114,500.
The purchase of the specially-strengthened Toyota Landcruiser manual cab/chassis long-wheelbase vehicle was covered by the State Government’s Community Safety Emergency Support Program.
The cost of the Rosenbauen Fox pump and fittings were jointly covered by the brigade’s contribution of more than $28,000 and a Federal Government grant from the National Emergency Volunteer Support Fund.
Captain Scammell gave heartfelt thanks to the volunteers for their efforts in fund raising and generation of income from fire equipment maintenance.
He also sincerely acknowledged valuable donations from contributors such as the ESSO Australia Barry Beach Marine Terminal, Fonterra, Toora IGA and service clubs such as Fish Creek Jaycees and Toora Lions.
The only other big fill appliance in the State is located in Western Victoria, so Toora Brigade anticipates that their latest acquisition will be used to help in many locations around Gippsland.
During his speech, Mr Viney thanked the volunteers for their community protection work and behind-the-scenes support and administration.
“If we had to use paid employees instead of volunteers, the cost would be prohibitive and we couldn’t meet the need,” he reflected.
Given the brigade’s current membership of 32, he felt that the CFA was being very well served and supported given the small size of Toora’s population.
Mr Viney added that in the 2010/11 financial year, the State Government had increased its budget by $136.6 million for bushfire preparation and response, training, personnel, upgrading information and warning systems, infrastructure (such as the big fill appliance), emergency coordination centres and community preparation.
He also referred to the Government’s commitment to improve land management systems so that the risk and workload for CFA volunteers and communities was made less intense and dangerous over the summer season.