As part of the SA Government’s $97.5-million Bushfire Action Plan, South Australian Country Fire Service (SACFS) volunteers at the Montacute Fire Station in the Adelaide Hills have welcomed a new Isuzu FTS 139-240 4×4 Crew featuring the latest and greatest in fire fighting technology.
The new Isuzu is one of 25 set to boost capabilities of the SACFS fleet for the upcoming bushfire season, while a further 16 trucks are being refurbished to include sprinkler systems designed to protect firefighters in the event of a ‘burnover’.
According to SACFS Director Operational Infrastructure & Logistics, Lee Watson, the extensively modified Isuzu trucks have proven to be reliable and durable under typically harsh fire-fighting conditions, which is why the SACFS continues to buy more.
“We currently have a contract with Isuzu to supply a whole range of Operational Response Vehicles ranging from NPS light-duty through to Giga heavy-duty,” said Watson.
“The majority of heavy tankers that we use are now built on the Isuzu FTS platform and the unit delivered to Montacute has a 4,000-litre water tank, a significant increase on the 3,000-litre capacity tanks on earlier versions.”
The vehicle specification, according to Watson, has been developed over many years of working with various suppliers and volunteers to end up with what he believes to be the most appropriate fire-fighting resource for rural applications.
This particular unit features a Deutz air-cooled diesel engine coupled with a Darley 2.5” pump, with Watson saying this specification is ideally suited to the more rural regions that may have limited water supplies, hence the benefit of the extra water tank capacity.
“Other key safety features incorporated into the build include a cab deluge system which provides a water spray halo over the entire glass area of the crew cab, water sprayers over the tyres and in-cab breathing systems which provide the crew with breathable air if caught in a burnover situation,” said Watson.
There is also a range of other less obvious but nonetheless important protective features including lagging of key components like brake lines, fuel lines and electrical wiring looms to ensure they are not readily impacted by the extreme heat in a worst-case scenario.
“Our ideal is that should the crew get caught in a burnover they can take refuge in the truck and after it has passed over, while still in a hostile environment, the truck should remain driveable to get them to a safer area as soon as possible,” he said.
Watson said some of the crews experienced burnovers in the last bushfire season and the safety systems worked as expected.
He was, however, quick to quell any suggestion that the addition of these vehicle safety measures as well as the latest Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplied to the crews infers that more risks can be taken in the line of duty.
“These measures are not intended to encourage people to go beyond the bounds of established procedures. We offer the best available resources to enable our volunteers to go about their duties in a safe manner, and to offer the best possible protection should the worst happen,” he said.