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February 2014

RAFT team a Shoalhaven first

Since our last report we have had three of our members (Pete Wilson, Dave Alexander and David ‘Dusty’ Smart) attain their helicopter winching ticket, which now means that they are able to be flown directly to a remote area fire and be winched in and out along with their equipment.

This is a first for the Shoalhaven area and gives us greater capabilities to deal with small fires from lightning strikes – before they develop into major fires.

Community events

On a social note thanks to all the additional family and children from the school and preschool who were able to attend our Christmas party and see Santa, as well as climb through and over the fire trucks all night. I am sure that there are now some budding new firefighters out there.

The brigade was also involved with running the Christmas Eve BBQ in conjunction with the Friendly Inn hotel and other local businesses that provided lollies and other goods so this could be a free night for children.

This is not to forget our participation at the spectacular fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

I think we certainly had front row seats with fireworks going off directly over everyone’s heads.

January call-outs

Over the Christmas period we have attended a total of six call-outs, so it has been a reasonably quiet period.

These consisted of two motor vehicle accidents, a large oil spill on Cambewarra Mountain and a false alarm call to a permit burn off.

Also we were called to a fat fire in the kitchen in one of our local takeaways. Thanks to some quick work by a passing out-of-area firefighter and others, with the use of several fire extinguishers from surrounding shops, the damage was contained to the immediate kitchen area and rooftop range hood.

Apart from smoke damage and powder residue from the extinguishers, the damage was minimal.

One of our longtime members Franz Mairinger, who was quickly on scene, had done some great work prior to the trucks arriving, clearing the road of cars so we could access the area and fire hydrants unobstructed.

Last call was an interesting one - to approx. 400 metres below Tallowa Dam on the western side of the river. A careless camper had left a fire unextinguished, which escaped into the surrounding bush. As we were unable to gain access by vehicle, several members of the brigade had to gain access to the fire by walking downstream and then getting a lift by canoe to the fire source. After working on this for several hours with hand tools to contain the fire they were about to leave and faced a very wet walk back across the river to the truck. The timely arrival of a National Park remote area fire team by helicopter provided a much better option than this, so after assisting them for a bit to consolidate the fire edges they were able to transport the guys out via helicopter to the second truck which had spent the afternoon on the opposite of the river directly above the fire to provide radio coverage back to Fire Control.

At the time of writing we have one of our trucks at Tumut, assisting with the fires down there. We have had two crews down there for a four-day period each, so thanks to Mike Gorman, Neil Breeze, John Smart, Neil Millet and Chloe Jenner for giving up their time and going away on these out-of-area commitments. The first returned crew have spoken of the very steep terrain and taxing conditions for firefighting, but have said it was very rewarding to be able to lend assistance to these areas, whose resources are very taxed with a number of large fires still burning uncontained. These out-of-area commitments are likely to continue until we can get significant rainfall across the state.

Guide to action: February

We’ve already had bad fires in the Southern Highlands, Blue Mountains and interstate, as well as the Shoalhaven.

Prepare your Bushfire Survival Plan now – don’t wait for an Extreme or Catastrophic Fire Danger day.

Use the wetter, cooler days to clean up the yard and gutters; notice where the leaves fall on the hot and windy ones.

Check your fire pump is working; does everyone at your place know how to use it?

Educate yourself – visit