Australia Fire Crew Has Close Call in ‘Melted’ Fire Apparatus

Balingup volunteer fire captain John Guest has spoken out about a close call that his crew experienced to highlight what he says are serious safety deficiencies in fire appliances provided to volunteer crews.

Guest and his crew were trying to contain a fire that jumped a fire break on Tuesday at Southampton, north of Manjimup when they became trapped inside the truck by a wall of  “intense flames” for about 40 minutes.

A similar incident claimed the life of mother-of-three Wendy Bearfoot, who was killed while fighting a fire in 2011 when a change in wind direction turned flames on her truck in Albany.

Guest described, “I left the truck motor running with the air conditioning on recycle. This kept the smoke out of the cab but did not stop it heating up to a point where our whole bodies were drenched in sweat; the inside of the cab was like a sauna, very hot.”

Guest said that he could see everything made of plastic melting and that the crew was lucky that the truck did not catch fire.

Guest said using a water cannon to create an umbrella of water took too long to set up and was ineffective against strong winds and intense flames.

Trucks also needed to have less plastic components, heat shields for the cab, and enough fire blankets for all the crew instead of just one per truck.

Firefighters also needed better training, he said.

“When it comes to protecting the persons in the truck, there is no more protection than being in a standard courier truck,” he said.

Highly flammable blackberry bushes which were growing uncontrolled across huge swaths added to the danger, he said.

“Because of the total lack of any sort of blackberry control in recent years, in many parts of the Blackwood Valley, it has turned into a fire death trap,” Mr Guest said.

The experience fire captain said he wanted to speak out to raise awareness about the issue and warn other firefighters.

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