Swapping the keyboard for a drip torch

18th July 2017 3:35 PM
CONTROLLED BURN: The team at Calavos Rural Fire Service conducted a controlled burn at Innes Park, Bundaberg. CONTROLLED BURN: The team at Calavos Rural Fire Service conducted a controlled burn at Innes Park, Bundaberg. Emma Reid

AFTER a day at the NewsMail office it was time to hang up the reporter hat and pop on my firefighter helmet.

I swapped my keyboard for a drip torch and stepped onto the field in the role of a volunteer firefighter.

Calavos Rural Fire Brigade conducted a hazard reduction burn at Innes Park, but it was more than that.

Calavos Rural Fire Service: CONTROLLED BURN: The volunteers at Calavos Rural Fire Service performed a controlled burn at Innes Park. The team used this exercise as a valuable training exercise.

It was a vital training exercise for new and seasoned volunteers to work together learning about fire behaviour and, more importantly, how to keep safe when facing it.

I joined the rural fire brigade at the end of last year and with my busy life I thought it would be hard to commit.

But when you're surrounded by 15 to 30 men and women with the same community minded spirit it's hard to stay away.

And Monday night's training reassured just that.

When we arrived on the scene the 20 or so volunteers were briefed on how to execute the burn and talked through safety procedures.

Checking the weather condition and wind direction was one of the most important steps.

It was 16.7 degrees, but I would soon learn the value of my fire fighting clothing as it was time to light up the first 4m pile of timber.

I was given the drip torch and thought 'sure I can handle this, too easy'.

I approached the wood pile and tilted the spout, the petrol-diesel mix flowed and the crackling started.

Within minutes the heat and flames took over and the temperature soon increased to what felt like 100 degrees and this is when I thanked God for the protective clothing, from the boots to perspex plastic shield on my helmet - every little bit helped.

CONTROLLED BURN: The team at Calavos Rural Fire Service conducted a controlled burn at Innes Park, Bundaberg.
CONTROLLED BURN: The team at Calavos Rural Fire Service conducted a controlled burn at Innes Park, Bundaberg. Emma Reid

As part of the learning exercise volunteers patrolled the perimeter of the controlled burn, watching for falling embers that could fly away and start another fire.

The hands-on training gave the less experienced, like myself, a chance to learn in a controlled and safe environment.

We were given the opportunity to think on our feet as a whistle blew and we acted out a "burn over” exercise where volunteers had to seek shelter or find a way to stay safe from an out of control fire scenario.

The night was a success and I went home and found myself too excited to sleep.

Queensland Rural Fire Service is always looking for more volunteers and I encourage everyone to give it a go.

To find out more go to www.ruralfire.qld.gov.au.