COMMISH’S CORNER

Wednesday 19 January 2011. Number 505     The Rumour Mill No (02) 9265 2627
CURRENT NATIONAL SECURITY ALERT LEVEL : MEDIUM

CURRENT NATIONAL SECURITY ALERT LEVEL: MEDIUM

New year, new era

On 1 January 2011 we officially changed our name from the NSW Fire Brigades to Fire and Rescue NSW.  The new name is intended to convey the wider scope of services we offer to the community in the 21st century while symbolising and supporting our organisation’s vision for the future.  An official style guide will soon be issued to provide instructions on how the new name and logos are to be applied.  In coming months you will also hear more about the vision document (PDF, 1.4MB) and how you can play a part in helping to shape a new era.

Queensland floods

Extensive rainfall resulted in numerous rivers and streams swelling and catchment areas overflowing across much of Queensland .  Numerous communities were isolated, and houses inundated with floodwaters.  On Thursday 6 January, the NSW State Emergency Operations Centre coordinated a FRNSW response to a request for assistance by the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.  Deployments of FRNSW teams began on Friday 7 January, with a six member Swift Water rescue team.  A second six member Swift Water rescue team was deployed on Tuesday 11 January.  A medium USAR Taskforce comprised of 42 personnel - 34 from NSW, 2 from ACT, 2 from Victoria, 2 from South Australia, and 2 from Tasmania -  was deployed to Queensland on Wednesday 12 January.  A Strike Team of four appliances and crews from northern NSW also left for Brisbane on Saturday.

We once again showed that FRNSW can deploy professional expertise rapidly under very difficult circumstances.  Our sincere sympathy goes to those families who have lost homes or loved ones.  Yesterday I welcomed back our USAR Taskforce and met our Swift Water rescue teams.  Thank you for a job well done.

Fire safety campaign - Australia Day barbecue safety

The template media release for the Australia Day barbecue fire safety campaign is now available on the intranet. With Australia Day just a week away, it is a good time for stations to promote key fire safety messages in your local media.

Bravery awards for Lismore hospital staff

Today I presented three Lismore hospital staff with bravery awards at a ceremony held at Lismore fire station.  The awards were for the courage shown by John McAlister, Monique Rhodes and Shirley Brown during a serious fire at the St Vincent’s Private Hospital , in Lismore on 29 April, 2010. 

Assistant Commissioner Jim Hamilton AFSM and I travelled from Sydney, and distinguished guests included, the Hon Robert McClelland, Federal Attorney-General; Janelle Saffin, Federal Member for Page; Deputy Mayor, Lismore City Council, Simon Clough; and local dignitaries, officers and crews from 362 Lismore and 316 Goonellabah.

Government radio network (GRN) upgrade

The current GRN environment used by FRNSW is based on Motorola proprietary analogue technology that is over 20 years old.  The NSW Government (through the Government Chief Information Office) is upgrading the GRN to a fully digital environment based on an open standard known as APCO P25.

All XTL 5000 mobile transceivers have been upgraded for digital operation.  XTS 3000 portable transceivers operating on the GRN (those with yellow antennas) have been replaced with XTS 5000 units.  The upgraded and replaced transceivers incorporate a dual profile allowing operation on both the existing analogue and the new P25 digital environments.  Migration from analogue to digital GRN operations will be undertaken progressively over a four-week period commencing late January 2011.  See the intranet for more details.

Granville memorial service

A Memorial Service was held yesterday to mark the 34th anniversary of the Granville train disaster, and to remember those who were killed and injured in this country’s worst rail disaster.  Fire and Rescue NSW was represented by firefighters and Senior Officers.  On the 18 January 1977, 27 Parramatta was the first emergency service on scene and commenced the harrowing rescue operations that involved the removal of 83 deceased people and hundreds who were injured.

Sonia Mac Dougall

I was saddened by the recent passing of Sonia Mac Dougall, wife of retired NSWFB Commissioner, Vice Admiral Ian Mac Dougall AC, AFSM.  Serving and retired members of the NSWFB/FRNSW are invited to attend a Memorial Service for Sonia that will be held at the Salvation Army Sydney Congress Hall, 140 Elizabeth St , cnr Clarke St , Sydney , on Saturday 29 January at 1030 hours.   Summer dress uniform, tie and ribbons or neat casual.

INCIDENTS

Petrol tanker fire

Just after midday on Friday 31 December, numerous 000 calls were received reporting an overturned double petrol tanker on fire on the Pacific Highway near Tintenbar, approximately 10 kilometres north of Ballina. The tanker contained a mixed load of 40,000 litres of petrol and diesel and due to ruptured tanks, immediately ignited; trapping the driver inside, who tragically was unable to escape. The accident and fire also caused the collapse of power lines which fell across another vehicle trapping two people inside.

The crew from 211 Ballina were first on scene and used foam during the initial attack phase. RFS crews responded to supply water during the extensive operation. The two trapped people in the car were safely removed after power was isolated in the area by energy authorities. Crews wearing breathing apparatus were finally able to bring the main tanker fire under control using 15 drums of foam. However, a large amount of fuel continued to leak from one of the ripped tanks, creating a massive secondary fire in a nearby swamp area adjacent to the roadway. It was considered too dangerous to attack this fire and it was allowed to burn itself out over a period of six hours.

Crews maintained a fire watch throughout the night and the next morning it was necessary to dig up several drains and flush them through in order to remove residual fuel and vapours. The area was finally declared safe at 1447 hours the next day. The highway was closed throughout the operation and there was extensive road damage caused by the intense fire. Crews from 211 Ballina, 316 Goonellabah, 362 Lismore, 468 Tweed Heads, 253 Casino, 213 Bangalow and 240 Brunswick Heads attended the long and difficult incident.

Bathurst cinema ceiling collapse

At 1246 hours on Monday 3 January, Fire and Rescue NSW was responded to reports of a roof collapse at a cinema complex in Bathurst . The incident occurred during a major rain and hailstorm that impacted the area. 216 Bathurst crew were on scene within eight minutes of notification and confirmed that ceilings had collapsed in two cinemas within the complex and that a number of people might have been trapped.

The crew from 105 Kelso arrived shortly after and firefighters assisted numerous patrons to exit the cinema. Fortunately there were no serious injuries. Firefighters simultaneously checked the cinema for safety issues such as live electrical power, gas leaks and potential for further structural collapse to ensure that there were no additional risks to patrons or rescuers.  Fire crews used thermal imaging cameras to scan the interior of both cinemas. This equipment again proved valuable in helping all the rescue services to quickly determine that no-one was trapped beneath the rubble.

Our firefighters worked cooperatively with other agencies including NSW Police, Ambulance and the SES. Forty-six people were in the cinema at the time of the incident and all were able to evacuate safely with only several people requiring treatment for minor injuries.

Paper manufacturing fire at Tumut

At 0542 hours on 16 January, Wollongong Communications received a 000 call to paper rolls alight at the Visy Paper site, 14 kms south west of Tumut and in RFS area. As per the Mutual Aid Agreement, both FRNSW and RFS responded.  On arrival, FRNSW firefighters were confronted with paper reels 100m x 20m x 3m external to the main building and well alight.  The initial response consisted of 457 Tumut, 218 Batlow and RFS.

The incident was upgraded to a 2nd Alarm on arrival of 467 Tumut and due to the size of the incident, Duty Commander Riverina was responded.  Over the following 2 and half days crews worked alongside each other and Visy staff to bring the incident under control. Ground monitors from Albury and Turvey Park were bought in to assist crews who had improvised in making their own ground monitors using lines of 70 and pocket lines. As the incident was brought under control, heavy machinery was used to separate the paper rolls.

Seventeen stations from Zones RS1, RS2 and RS3 attended as well as Duty Commander Riverina, and Duty Commander and Zone Commander Southern Highlands .  FRNSW withdrew after 2 ˝ days, leaving the incident with the RFS who maintained skeleton crews over the following 16 days.  The professionalism, resourcefulness and patience of attending crews brought this incident to a safe close, averting potentially catastrophic consequences for both Visy and the Tumut community.

ASK THE COMMISSIONER

Q. As meal allowances have now increased over $25, and if a crew of 4 puts in a claim and it goes over $100, it won't be approved.  Why can't the $100 approval be increased as well?

A. The limit of $100, in this instance, applies to each individual firefighter and not the collective amount. That is, the meal allowance paid to each individual firefighter is a separate transaction. The meal allowance for each firefighter, currently $25.80, can continue to be paid from petty cash.

The $100 limit on petty cash transactions is mandated by NSW Treasury and applies across the entire public sector.

Q. When will the brigade start giving out proper transcripts and certificates for all the training that staff (particularly retained) undertake? The RFS has been doing this well for it's members for years!

A. Improved transcripts and certificates are on Education and Training’s agenda for 2011.  We would welcome any input from firefighters.

Q. With the current revamp of the brigade's public image has there been any thought towards modernising the station on-hold tune which has been around for as long as anyone can remember?

A. A good suggestion.  Updating the on-hold messages has been under consideration for some time and will be done when resources and priorities permit. Updating on-hold messages does take time to ensure messages are correct and requires scripting and professional recording.  It will be considered in 2011 work plans.

COMMISH’S CORNER