COMMISH’S CORNER

Wednesday 3 July 2013 - Number 567   
CURRENT NATIONAL SECURITY ALERT LEVEL : MEDIUM

GENERAL

Line of duty deaths at bushfire in Arizona

On Monday we were all shocked and saddened to learn of the deaths of 19 firefighters who had been fighting a major bushfire near Prescott, Arizona, in the USA. The firefighters were members of a "Hotshot" crew working on a fireline in extreme weather conditions. Hotshot crews are specialists in dry firefighting techniques and are superbly fit. They are experts in fire behavior and whilst their work is extremely hazardous, casualties are uncommon. In 1995 I worked with Hotshot crews for 2 days at a major brush fire near San Diego in California and was amazed at their expertise. This tragic incident is a poignant reminder of the ever-present dangers associated with our profession.

Hurstville wins 2013 Australasian Road Rescue Challenge

Congratulations to Hurstville "D" Platoon who made a clean sweep of the Australasian Road Rescue Challenge held in Canberra, June 21-23. Hurstville won the overall championship, Best Technical Team, Best Medical Team, and team leader Station Officer Clayton Allison was named Best Team Leader. It is testament to the expertise of FRNSW in road accident rescue. Hurstville will now be eligible to represent Australasia and FRNSW at the World Road Rescue Challenge Championships to be held in Scotland next year. Also, well done to our Yass Brigade who entered a team for the first time. For more information, see the Intranet story.

SES launches FloodSafe Month

On Monday 24 June, I attended the launch of FloodSafe Month by the SES at Penrith Whitewater Stadium, which also saw the official handover of 690 Child Protection Floatation Devices to all SES operational vehicles across the State. As we work closely with the SES in attending and responding to storms, floods and other natural disasters, I was pleased to be invited along to the launch by Commissioner Murray Kear. The Commissioner highlighted the importance of preparing for and knowing what to do before, during and after a flood. I encourage all firefighters to promote awareness of the SES FloodSafe website in their community engagement activities (http://www.floodsafe.com.au/).

Officers travel overseas to further FRNSW knowledge and expertise

The Australian Government has provided funding to enable three FRNSW officers to travel overseas to attend important events to further our knowledge, expertise and capability in USAR. Station Officer Clayton Abel has just participated in an International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG) Training Working Group meeting in Bern, Switzerland last week. His attendance will enhance the ongoing development of our USAR Task Force capabilities. Chief Superintendent John Denny also attended an INSARAG meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, participating in the review of international Disaster Response Guidelines.
FRNSW recently funded participation of two officers at an on-ship firefighting operations course in NZ. Inspector Craig Wright and Station Officer Graham Turnbull attended a full scale fire test at the Royal New Zealand Navy (RNZN) ship firefighting facility in Auckland over the weekend. Both officers have pivotal roles in FRNSW's planning and preparation for the International Fleet Review, which will see 40 different warships visiting Sydney Harbour in October, with FRNSW responsible for responding to any fires or incidents on these ships in partnership with Sydney Ports and the RAN.
AUSAID provided funding to enable Superintendent Chris Jurgeit, Staff Officer to the Deputy Commissioner, to travel to Nadi, Fiji, this week, to attend the inaugural meeting of Pacific Island Disaster Management. He was the initial chief fire officer in the Solomon Islands after the Australian Federal Police intervention in 2003 and has intimate knowledge of the emergency management requirements for the Pacific region and gaps in service delivery.

Remuneration for Community First Responder firefighters

On 21 June the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) determined that retained firefighters at the 6 'Community First Responder' (CFR) stations should be paid a 7% higher hourly rate than current rates. The IRC rejected both the FBEU claim for 20% and the FRNSW submission for a lesser amount.
In reaching this decision, the IRC noted that Melbourne 'Emergency Medical Response' (EMR) firefighters receive 2.42% for undertaking the EMR function, but found that CFR is different and said "... the Victorian comparator does not readily affect what is being considered here."
The Commission stated "..the training of CFR retained firefighters falls well below the medical and other training of an ambulance paramedic, although the work of CFR firefighters can be said to be more analogous to that of ambulance officers than firefighters".
The Commission also agreed that ".. CFR Retained Firefighters attend a broader variety of incidents than their counterparts in Victoria. CFR firefighters' work ranges from attending calls in respect of persons experiencing cardiac arrest, childbirth, snakebites and/or major trauma."
The Public Sector Conditions of Employment Regulation requires that these increases be funded by achieved 'employee related cost savings' before they come into effect. The decision recognises the work value of CFR firefighters and rewards their selfless commitment to their communities. FRNSW will now work closely with the FBEU to identify suitable savings so that this 7% increase can be paid to CFR firefighters as soon as possible. For those interested, a copy of the decision can be found here.

Latest on IPP pre-entry test changes

Discussions are ongoing with the FBEU regarding the proposed changes to the IPP pre-entry test. In the meantime, there has been an excellent response to the forums and portfolio and interview development seminars that have been held across the state including as far away as Broken Hill. Due to demand, additional seminars are being considered. To register, email IPPdevelopment@fire.nsw.gov.au. A summary of the information presented at these seminars will be available on the dedicated IPP intranet page shortly.
Please email IPPfeedback@fire.nsw.gov.au if you have any questions about the proposed changes to the IPP pre-entry test. I am particularly interested to hear from any officers who have been preparing for the "old" style test, particularly if you feel that you may be disadvantaged by a change this year.

FRNSW leads the Emergency Services Winter Blood Challenge

Halfway through the 2013 Emergency Services Winter Blood Challenge, FRNSW is just in front, having made the most group donations. However we mustn't rest easy, as we're neck and neck with the State Emergency Service and the NSW Police Force, and if we don't keep up the good work we will lose our hard-earned lead. To see how we're doing in comparison with the other emergency services follow the daily tally update at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. If you haven't had the chance to yet and would like to participate, see the Health and Safety intranet page for more information. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to donate so far, you are doing a valuable community service.

Cross agency Intranet goes live 4 July

A new Justice and Emergency Services Intranet (JESI) Intranet will go live from tomorrow (Thursday 4 July). JESI won't replace existing agency intranets but will supplement them by providing a convenient central source for news and information common to all agencies in the cluster of NSW emergency services and justice agencies. It will fill a vital communication gap, making sure that everyone hears about common programs and initiatives. Information available on JESI will include the NSW Public Sector Workplace Giving Program, which provides opportunities for staff to support charities and philanthropic causes more easily through regular payroll deductions. A link to the JESI Intranet will be published on our Intranet once the site is live.  

'400 in 4' Charity Bike Riders present cheque to the Burns Unit

On 18 June a group of firefighters involved in this year's ' 400 in 4' Charity Bike Ride visited the Burns Unit at The Children's Hospital, Westmead to present a cheque for $37,958. This brings the total raised by the '400 in 4' event to just over $275,000 in its 8-year history. The crew were given a tour of the Burns Unit as well as the new burns treatment theatre which the ride has funded. Seeing where the money goes makes all the effort very worthwhile. Dr John Harvey, head of the Burns Unit, told the firefighters that all of the fire services' prevention work in the community appears to paying off as burns involving children in the home are declining. Congratulations once again to SO Scott Henderson who organised and ran this year's ride, to the various riders who participated, and to those who provided support.

Team Bandaged Bear City to Surf

It's that time of the year again, with thousands of people dusting off their running shoes to prepare for The Sun-Herald City2Surf, held on Sunday 11 August. I encourage you all to sign up to be a part of Team Bandaged Bear who aim to raise $200,000 for The Children's Hospital at Westmead and Bear Cottage, which cares for sick children from all over NSW, Australia and the Pacific Rim. To register visit the official website at www.city2surf.com.au.

INCIDENTS

A busy night for 417 Flyer
417 Parkes (now known as the "Central West Flyer") and other Central West crews were kept busy in the early hours of Saturday 22 June by not one, but two major structure fires within walking distance of each other in the Parkes CBD.
At 0236 hours 000 calls were received reporting a fire in a laneway behind the Woolworths Store in Clarinda Street, Parkes. On his way to the station, A/Deputy Captain Simon King saw large volumes of smoke and a red glow, and asked Newcastle Comms to respond 294 Forbes and 419 Peak Hill. Soon after arrival 417 called for additional assistance with crews from 284 Delroy, 280 Dubbo, 412 Orange and Parkes RFS subsequently responding. On arrival, crews found the rear of a 10m x 50m retail store well alight and venting under the eaves. The building was of double brick construction at the front, and iron and tin at the rear. Nearby exposures, including a hotel, were also under threat.

Crews in SCBA mounted an offensive attack with four lines of 38mm hose, preventing fire spread to the main showroom. The rear storage area and dock with contents suffered extensive fire and smoke damage. The remainder of the building including a mezzanine level suffered smoke damage, and nearby exposures were successfully protected.
While crews were dealing with the above incident, NSW Police advised the FRNSW Incident Controller of a second incident in another retail premises (Discount Davies) in close proximity also in Clarinda Street. Smoke was issuing from this second building, which was 50m x 50m of brick and iron construction. A fire had broken out near a gas main at the rear, igniting the gas. The IC redeployed resources from the incident to the second outbreak (419 Peak Hill and an RFS tanker). Firefighters from 419 wearing SCBA entered the building and located a small fire in the ceiling which they attacked with a line of 38mmm hose while the RFS crew cooled the gas main and extinguished a burning pile of milk crates. P284 Delroy and P412 Orange also attended to assist with operations. Damage was confined to a small area in the rear of the building.

Both fires are regarded as suspicious and are being investigated by Police. A multi-agency debrief (FRNSW, RFS and Police) is being held Thursday evening July 4 at 417 stn.

Fuel and chemical spills on NSW roads

Wednesday last week saw several significant hazmat incidents which impacted traffic on both city and country roads.
Once again in Parkes, a truck conveying a mixed load of dangerous goods was stopped at around 1600 hours last Wednesday when a leak was noticed, causing closure (with diversions) of Orange Road 3 kilometres from Parkes. 417 Parkes, 280 Dubbo Hazmat and 284 Delroy responded to this incident along with NSW Police, RFS and Roads and Maritime Services. The spill involved a leak of creosote from a 200-litre drum on a vehicle conveying a mixed load of dangerous goods. One police officer reported to hospital as a precaution after inhaling fumes prior to FRNSW arrival. The driver of the truck was decontaminated by FRNSW before being transported to Parkes Hospital as a precautionary measure. Emergency services on scene liaised with the Environment Protection Authority throughout the incident.
Another creosote chemical spill was detected about 1745 hours in Dalton Street, Parkes with the same truck believed responsible. 294 Forbes attended this spill and rendered the area safe.
Meanwhile, back in Sydney a short time later on the same day, FRNSW received a call at 1905 hours to a truck accident on James Ruse Drive, North Parramatta. 65 Rydalmere and Hazmat 85 Chester Hill responded and found a B-double truck with a ruptured fuel tank, spilling around 500 litres of diesel. Traffic Management Control staff were also on scene to monitor and manage traffic issues. Firefighters decanted the remaining 120 litres of fuel from the tank into two hazmat bins and set up booms to contain the spilled fuel and prevent it contaminating Lake Parramatta. A private contractor was engaged to remove the spilled fuel. 67 Baulkham Hills attended at 2142 hours to replace P65 with the Stop message finally sent at 0047 hours the following morning. 

4th Alarm fire forces evacuation of student housing

At 0436 hours on 23 June, inner city crews responded to an AFA at the Hotel Uni Lodge at Bay St, Broadway, Ultimo.
On arrival, crews found that a fire had started in an electrical cabinet on the second floor of the 5-storey building which provided accommodation to university students. The fire had triggered the sprinkler system and caused heavy smoke-logging throughout the building. Around 300 occupants, mostly students, had to be evacuated by police and fire crews from the building to the shopping centre across the road. This evacuation proved very challenging as the building comprised over 600 rooms.
Initially the fire spread uncontained from Level 2 to Level 3 via ducting. Crews attacked the fire and extinguished it with three lines of 38mm hose working from internal hydrants and the building sprinkler system. The hydrant booster system was used to good effect.
The fire caused severe damage to each floor due to smoke spreading laterally through the ceiling space on Level 5. The building had timber floor construction and damage to the Level 4 floor required an exclusion zone to be set up in internal hallways.
Five residents including several disabled people had to be rescued by crews in SCBA and three were treated for smoke inhalation by Ambulance paramedics. Residents were allowed to return to their rooms to obtain personal goods but the building was not immediately habitable. FIRU attended the scene to confirm the point of origin of the fire.
Resources on scene were P18 Glebe, P38 and CO2 Pyrmont, P10 Redfern, HP13 Alexandria, P4 Darlinghurst, LP18 Glebe, H13 Alexandria, Runner 1 City Of Sydney, P5 Newtown, P22 Leichhardt, LSVA 1 City Of Sydney, P53 Neutral Bay, Flyer1 City Of Sydney, P3 The Rocks, P22 Leichhardt and P28 Marrickville.

ASK THE COMMISSIONER

Q. What is happening with the SOPP this year? Will there be one? In light of proposed changes to the IPP selection format, there are rumours that this will also be applied to the SOPP. What is happening?
A. The question of an SOPP this year will be resolved this month and communicated via Commissioner's Orders, as required by the Award. We are currently over-strength as far as Station Officer establishment numbers are concerned, which strictly speaking means there is no need for an SOPP this year. However there may be a small intake. It is more likely however that there will be an SOPP in the second half of next year. By that time the IPP pre-entry test format will have been resolved, and there appears to be widespread acknowledgement that if this is the case, then the more modern process should apply to the SOPP as well.
 
Q: Is it true that management at the Training College has banned all training on extension ladders because it is "too dangerous"? If so, should we now take ladders off all appliances?
A: No, management did not place a ban on climbing ladders. At a recent drill session at the State Training College a Station Officer would not allow his crew to climb an extension ladder while hauling a line of hose aloft. He believed that in the training environment there should be more safety measures than are able to be provided at an actual fire. As a result of these concerns a risk assessment was conducted and a number of additional safety measures are being implemented. As soon as these are completed ladder climbing will again become a standard part of the essential skills sessions. Ladders are still being raised at the sessions, however climbing the ladders has ceased until the additional safety measures are implemented.

Q:
The new PAT test no longer has the "ladder raise" test.There are concerns in the stations that new recruits wont have the strength to fulfil this vital task.
A: The new Physical Aptitude Test (PAT) was developed by physiologists at Wollongong University together with our Health & Safety Branch after detailed analysis of routine firefighting tasks, and numerous field tests involving FRNSW firefighters. The analysis enabled scientific rigour to be applied to every aspect of testing, and for simulations to be developed that replicate the actual strength required for each task, including the ladder raise. All new recruits have met and in most cases exceeded the strength and physical fitness requirements, and would have done so whether tested in the old or new PAT. Representatives from other Australian fire services came to Sydney last week to be briefed on the new PAT, which is also receiving international interest.

Q:
A document obtained by the union through Freedom of Information is circulating. It details budget strategies such as reducing Pyrmont to SO and 1, and closing or relocating some stations. Is management really looking at such things?

A:
The FBEU reported quite correctly in its last SITREP, that management had opposed release of some documents relating to the Labour Expense Cap savings, because they would cause undue concern. This document is a classic reason why. Applications under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) cast a very wide net, and include all documents and e-mails relating to the subject even those that have been rejected. In this case, the document referred to was a series of thoughts put forward in early stages of planning, most of which have not been, and will not be, implemented. It is causing undue concern and is precisely the reason why FRNSW sought to restrict what documents were released.

Commissioner's email:
Commissioner@fire.nsw.gov.au
Sandra Garcia, EA to Commissioner
: 9265 2930
Ask the Commissioner:
OfficeOfTheCommissioner@fire.nsw.gov.au