Have you experienced the phenomenal work NSW RFS volunteers do, or have friends and family who are members? Have you found yourself wanting to actively participate within your local community?Read More
Within the RFS there are two sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) that brigade members wear, depending on the job and their level of training. The yellow uniform is given to every brigade member when they pass basic training (bushfire fighter) along with boots, a helmet, goggles, gloves, a flash hood and a water bottle. This is the minimum PPE that has to be worn at any incident by members. All uniforms are treated with ProBan which makes the material fire-resistant (but not fire proof!).
The flash hood given to members is used in two situations. First is an over-run, where a truck is caught in a bushfire and maximum protection is required for occupants of the vehicle. The second situation is when performing a five man fog attack, a technique used to suppress a fire in a compressed flammable gas tank such as an LPG tank. The flash hood is also used by members wearing breathing apparatus (BA) under their helmet.
The second set of uniforms is the green outers that are worn by members trained in the use of breathing apparatus. These are a thicker layer of protection that offers more protection from radiant heat, but not from steam. This second set of PPE is worn over the top of the yellow trousers and a shirt, and the gloves used by BA crews are thicker to withstand more heat. The helmets for the BA members are larger and more heavy as they provide protection from possible falling debris inside a structure. Members undergo rigorous training to be qualified to wear BA and must participate in regular “wearing” of the sets to maintain their competency.
In addition to the different uniforms there are three different ranks for the members: Captain, Deputy and Ordinary Member. The different ranks are indicated in two ways – the colour and stripes on the helmet and epaulets on the shoulders. A Captain has a red helmet and three stripes on their shoulders, the senior deputy has a red hemet with white stripes and two stripes on their shoulders, and deputies have a white helmet with red stripes and one stripe on their shoulders. All deputies are trained to lead a crew at an incident, and a truck cannot respond from the station (except under direct instruction of a group officer) without a deputy or a member trained to crew leader level.
Uniforms bear patches sewn onto the outside of members jackets that indicate skill sets they have been trained in. These include village firefighting (VF), advanced firefighting (AF) and first aid (a white cross on a green background). All uniforms bear the crest of the NSW Rural Fire Service, a burning tree on a pale blue background (the full history can be read on the RFS website.
Breathing Apparatus (BA) - BA Operators
There are a number of brigades in the Hornsby district that are classified as village brigades and carry breathing apparatus (BA) for members to wear inside of a burning house or some other toxic environment. The training to become a breathing apparatus operator is a physically demanding, mostly practical course, and members must undergo a physical before training commences.
BA operators are deployed at incidents where there is risk of injury from a toxic atmosphere, such as those found at house fires and car accidents. BA operators wear extra protective clothing to provide extra protection from the intense heat found inside at house fires, etc. Breathing apparatus does not make the operators invincible, and there are strict rules and protocols that must be adhered to when it is deployed. The Rural Fire Service will not deploy BA operators unless there is a backup team on site or within eight minutes in case a rescue of members inside the structure is required.
Safety is paramount with the use of BA, and operators working inside a structure do so in pairs with radio contact to the incident controller outside. All operators carry a PDU, or Personal Distress Unit which is a motion sensitive alarm on the belt of the BA set, that is activated manually or if the operator is immobile for twenty seconds. This will alert teams outside to a problem inside the structure and indicate that urgent help is required. Operators entering and leaving a structure must ‘check in’ with the Breathing Apparatus Control Officer (BACO), who monitors how long they have been working and gives the teams their objectives. The amount of air left in the cylinders is checked and recorded before operators can enter a structure and the amount of time they can be inside is determined by that amount.
The operators are required to ‘wear’ or use their breathing apparatus for a certain amount of time every quarter. In addition they must attend at least one of three breathing apparatus exercises every year to maintain their competencies. The training course is undertaken at the district training facility at Westleigh, with the final exam and the subsequent exercises held offsite so members are not familiar with the setting. The Westleigh Training Centre is being upgraded to include a hot cell training facility in addition to the smoke house. This allows BA operators to train in realistic conditions with fire as well as smoke. The equipment used by BA operators is regularly maintained, with weekly checks of the equipment done by members, and a yearly service done by the Fire Control Centre
Heavy Tankers - Category 1 Appliances.
Arcadia Rural Fire Brigade has two Category 1 Heavy Appliances (Tankers). These are commonly referred to as "CAT1s". Their radio designation is Arcadia 1A and Arcadia 1B. Arcadia 1A is our bush fire fighting appliance and Arcadia 1B is equipped to perform structure fire(as well as bush fire ) fighting duties and carries Breathing Apparatus Equipment for suitably trained fire fighters.
The CAT1 tankers are a 13,000kg 4x4 vehicle with the water capacity of approximately 3,300 litres of water. The Vehicle is designed to carry a crew of six along with supporting equipment for fire fighting duties.
The vehicle is also designed to act as a refuge in the event of a bush fire overrun. An "overrun" typically occurs when a bush fire changes direction rapidly and places people or equipment at risk. The vehicle has water sprays that spray over the wheel arches and crew cabin to protect the occupants from radiant heat from a fire or overrun.
Light Vehicles - Personnel Carrier
Arcadia Rural Fire Brigade has a lighter personnel carrier vehicle (PC). Designated as "Arcadia PC", this is a Toyota 70 Series Troop Carrier. This vehicle is not equipped for fire fighting duties. The primary purpose of this vehicle for crew transport/support, command and reconnaissance duties.
Being a skills based emergency service, our members are constantly working to improve their skill sets. The basic level of training to be an active member is the Bushfire Fighter (BF) course. This covers the basics of fire fighting as well as how to use the equipment on the truck, basic radio skills and what to do in the event of an over run emergency (when a bushfire burns past a truck). From that point members can choose to attend the Village Firefighter (VF) course where the focus is on structure incidents and motor vehicle accidents (MVAs). Following this is the Advanced Firefighter (AF) course where there is a greater focus on the theory side of fire behaviour, advanced pumping, mapping skills and fire fighting. Some members will elect to go on and do the Crew Leader (CL) course which gives them the ability and authority to lead a crew in response to a fire call. All of these courses are competency based and members must prove their skills before they are awarded the qualification, and then commit to practice and refine these skills over time. As members proceed in the courses the skills gained at the new level always build upon those of the course before it.
In between the main courses outlined above there are a number of side courses in very divergent directions. Members can work towards a senior first aid or advanced first aid qualification; become qualified in the use of breathing apparatus; use of chainsaws; or combine several of these and attend the Remote Area Firefighter (RAF) course. The RAF qualified members are those that walk in or are dropped in by helicopter with basic equipment to extinguish or slow the progression of a fire in areas that our trucks cannot reach in a timely manner. Arcadia has one member so far qualified as a remote area firefighter.
A new direction for the Rural Fire Service is to train members to help deliver the message that bushfire prevention is dependant on the involvement of the home owners as well as us. There is a course specifically designed to aid in getting this information out there and we have committed to getting as many members qualified as we can so that everyone can help spread the message.
Another important part of our training is familiarisation with the local area and assets within that area. It is important for members to know where we can access water (either through hydrants or a Static Water Supply marked with an SWS sign). In addition to this basic idea, we look at hazards within the local community such as buildings with hazardous materials (eg chemicals at nurseries or flammable liquids at the Berowra Waters marina). We also try to look at hydrant systems at larger facilities such as the schools or places like Vision Valley. Part of this familiarisation can be the development of a pre-incident plan, which is a document with a map of the complex that shows where assets like hydrants are and hazards such as LPG cylinders. These need to updated periodically as the facilities can change. Helping residents with pile burns (approved by the local council) provides an opportunity for us to learn about fire behaviour in addition to helping remove fuel from the property.
Where we can we try to organise training with other brigades in the area so that we are familiar with our neighbours and other areas. The group officers within the district also organise events with a number of brigades to keep our skills sharp, with an annual field exercise day and trophy for the winner awarded at the thank you dinner hosted by the Mayor of Hornsby Council.
All of this training is done in addition to checking the equipment on the trucks once a month, checking and maintaining fire trails, and ensuring hydrants in the street are in working order, and undertaking hazard reductions. The training that the brigade undertakes every Saturday is run to ensure that all levels of skills are covered and you have no doubt seen us out and about working hard; we are a very busy brigade, and wouldn’t have it any other way!