In what is considered one of the most dangerous swimming holes in the state, the Mermaid Pools in Tahmoor have been a rescue hot spot for Fire & Rescue NSW. We caught up with 421 Picton about their run of rope rescues over the summer period.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us – where exactly are the “mermaid pools”?
The “Mermaid Pools” are located on Crown Land, approximately 7 kilometres from 421 Station off Rockford Road at Tahmoor. Access to the area is via a walk in from the Rockford Road Bridge, along the Bargo River, at an area known as the potholes. The area has a lot of hazards including steep cliffs and water hazards.
How many rescue’s did you do over the summer?
This summer we have attended 8 incidents at Mermaid Pools. On occasions we have assisted multiple persons during the one incident. There was one incident where we extracted a dog as well. Each one has presented its own set of unique challenges.
What’s typically involved in a rescue operation there?
Due to the nature of the work that is required to enact a rescue there, 421 Picton and 008 Liverpool are responded. A typical rescue requires us to enter the area via the Scout Camp. We then have a 10 minute walk down a steep track down to the Mermaid Pools. Entry to the water at the pools by visitors is by jumping from a 8 metre cliff, or a higher cliff at approximately 30 metres. Exit from the pools is made by climbing up a rope which is adjacent to the waterfall. This also poses significant risk to people attempting to climb up the slippery rock surface.
Due to our proximity, we typically arrive prior to the NSW Ambulance Service – so after a size up, our first priority is to lower a firefighter to the base of the cliff to commence first aid on the patient. Depending on injuries, weather conditions and other factors – extrication will be by a helicopter winch, a haul and recovery from the top of the 8 metre cliff, or from the top of 30 metre cliff using the Arizona Vortex off Rescue 8 (Liverpool). This allows us to extricate the patient eliminating the steep walk out.
What equipment do you carry to support these kinds of operations?
421 is equipped with a ‘Green Pack’ roping kit that contains 2 x 50 metre ropes, 2 x Petzel IDL’s, pulleys, karabiners, slings, rope grabs, prussick loops etc. In the first instance our closest accredited vertical unit, Rescue 8 (Liverpool) is dual responded.
On one occasion a second incident occurred (Spinal Injury) whilst our crews were on scene packaging another patient with a broken ankle.
What are some of the challenges when you’re out there?
Due to its remote nature, topography and hazards, there are numerous considerations when carrying out a size up. Recently we have been faced with extreme temperatures of over 40 degrees, which is a real hazard to firefighters having to carry in large amounts of equipment in and out along steep and challenging tracks. Communications are very limited and on occasions, FRNSW Communications have been unable to be contacted by mobile or radio. Other problems encountered have been large crowds (100+ people) who hinder our teams and have been difficult to control without Police intervention. Usually crowds continue to jump off the Cliffs even when we have had patients in the water or at the base of the cliff. On one occasion a second incident occurred (Spinal Injury) whilst our crews were on scene packaging another patient with a broken ankle.
Typically our patients are backpackers or persons from other areas visiting for the first time. During the summer months we are seeing up to 200 persons per day visiting the site.
Thanks for your time, stay safe!