firefighter, bush fires,

Proud to have Col Burrow, volunteer firefighter, on our team.

It’s been such an emotionally charged end to 2019 and emotions are still high as we enter into the middle of January. Australia’s devastating bushfires don’t seem to be easing and the statistics of lives, wildlife, homes and businesses lost is beyond comprehension for most. Those affected are going to be doing it tough for quite some time, but they know that Australia has their back and the fundraising dollars just keep pouring in.

We have been really blessed that all our Groomers nationally are safe and sound and their Big Blue Dogs and Yellow Kennels remain on the roads but I’m sure that many have been affected personally hearing stories from their friends, families and customers. We continue to support where we can.

The stories that we don’t really hear much of is the behind the scenes day to day life of our volunteer firefighters. Blue Wheelers is a huge supporter of our very own Sales guru, Col Burrow who has been volunteering for the RFS since July 2013. We speak to him regularly and debrief with him when he is up to it. We fully fund his days away fighting fires which have been many with many more on the horizon.

Since joining the RFS, Col has attended well over 150 Bushfires. As Deputy Captain Col has his pager by his desk and his gorgeous wife Steph is the Brigade Secretary.

When that pager lights up Col gets into uniform and heads to the station. In Col’s words:

Generally, at this point we have no idea what we are heading too. When I leave the house, I expect that there is a possibility I may not return home for a minimum of 12 hours. As this is the expectation of the service when we head to a fire call. Sometimes, we are also being recruited to help other agencies with their jobs, such as an Ambulance Assist. This may be needed if the ambos need to carry someone over hilly terrain for example. Or, we may be needed to help Fire & Rescue with house or factory fires.

There is no such thing as a ‘typical day’ says Col.

On the fire ground we will arrive at an incident. We will be briefed on what our tanker will be tasked to do.

Here’s some of the most common tasks.

If it’s a campaign fire, such as the current bushfires, we will be briefed along with 5 other tankers, commonly known as the Strike Team.

Depending on the fire activity at the time, we may be tasked to carry out Property Protection. This is where we will wait for the fire to come to us and cool it down to put out the edge of the fire to protect the property.

If the fire changes direction we may be tasked to Respond with lights and sirens to another property and do the same.

We may need to put in a Back Burn. This is where we use fire to fight fire. Fire will draw to itself, so we put a line of fire in and burn the bush back to the main fire front. Therefore, stopping the fire in its tracks, otherwise known as Containment.

Sometimes we need to put a Fire Break in. This is where we remove vegetation down to mother earth so that there is nothing to burn. This can be very physical work but we may not be able to put fire in that location for various reasons.

With the current fires we have been tasked to go and check out 000 calls to see what is needed and assist where we can. Whilst responding to some of these we have been driving around fallen burning trees, watching out for others in case they fall. Driving alongside kilometres of fallen powerlines. Arriving to a totally evacuated town. I’ve driven around an evacuated caravan park, where people had just dropped finishing rods against their boats and had gone. Very eerie.

In the offseason we will do Hazzard Reductions. These are often confused with Back Burning but are completely different. HRs are there to reduce the ground fuel to prevent a major fire coming through. These can be very small. For example, just on someone’s property or they can be massive with multiple tankers and even Fire and Rescue if the HR is near the Urban interface and around homes.

We also do a lot of community service events. Supporting other volunteer agencies and generally getting the Brigade out in the local area to be seen. Fundraisers such as Bunnings BBQ’s. This helps our Brigade raise funds for new and improved equipment that is not RFS supplied.

Our Brigade recently received a grant from the local Member of Parliament to purchase a Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) this helps us locate hotspots that could potentially blow hot embers into the unburnt territory. Potentially, stopping a flare-up after we leave.

We are so proud of Col and his achievements and we regularly check-in to ensure he is safe and sound. Blue Wheelers were grateful to be recognized in June 2016 by the RFS when we received an award for supportive Employer of the year.

Stay safe Col. We love you!

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