We spoke with Roleystone Volunteer Fire Brigade about their interesting history, being both a Bush Fire Brigade and a Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service. They recently had a large multi agency drill involving the local rescue helicopter, so we got the low down on that too.
Flashover: Firstly, could you give us a little bit of information about your brigade?
Roleystone Volunteer Fire Brigade was formed in 1957, so this year marks our 60th year as a Bush Fire Brigade (BFB). Our Brigade has also been a Fire and Rescue Service (VFRS) Brigade since 1998. Hence, our Brigade is unique as we are only one of a several “dual registered” Brigades in Western Australia, meaning we are equipped to attend both bushfires and structural or HAZMAT incidents. In consequence, our BFB is equipped with two appliances: a ‘BFS 2.4’ (a 2,000 Ltr, 4WD Isuzu FSS550) and a BFB Light Tanker (a 550 Ltr, Toyota Landcruiser); while our VFRS is equipped with a single ‘2.4’ with Breathing Apparatus and HAZMAT equipment.
Our Brigade has over 40 active members, comprising of both BFB and VFRS members. As a result of being a “dual registered” Brigade, membership
commonly overlaps between the two services within our Brigade. Due to our membership numbers and cross section of experience and skills we are able to operate three crews set on a “one week on, two weeks off” roster.
In an average year, our Brigade will attend approximately 100 callouts, comprising of both BFB and VFRS incidents. This financial year we have attended around 40 incidents so far.
Flashover: It looks like you had a pretty interesting training drill recently, could explain what the drill entailed and what services were involved?
The drill involved approximately 50 emergency service personnel including firefighters from Roleystone Volunteer Fire Brigade, firefighters from
Armadale career and volunteer Fire and Rescue Service (FRS); members from Armadale State Emergency Service Unit; the RAC helicopter (Rescue 651) and crew, including paramedic, and an officer from DFES’s Air Operations.
The drill first entailed a briefing from the Air Operations officer at the landing site. The briefing reviewed the appropriate radio channels for communication with the various aircraft operated by DFES, including Air Intelligence and Air Attack. The Air Operations officer then provided an ETA for Rescue 651’s arrival, and allocated Armadale FRS to monitor their radios and communicate details to Rescue 651, including the landing site (Springdale Park, Roleystone). Armadale SES investigated the landing site and removed any foreign material which may have posed a safety risk to Rescue 651 and crew. Once Rescue 651 had landed, an information session ensued. The pilot and co-pilot discussed the specifications and capabilities of the helicopter, including the use of the helicopter’s winch system for the retrieval of casualties. The paramedic also discussed his role and gave detail to how first responders on the ground can assist the crew with First Aid and the loading of casualties.
This training drill was not the first time we have met with Rescue 651. In May, 2016 the Brigade conducted a similar exercise and information session at Cross Park, Roleystone. In July and October, 2016, the Brigade also attended Motor Vehicle Incidents which required Rescue 651 and counterpart, Rescue 652, to transport casualties from the incident. These incidents represented 2 of 3 incidents we have attended in the past financial year where casualties had to be extracted from vehicles. At these incidents Roleystone’s firefighters have assisted Armadale VFRS and career FRS with stabilising motor vehicles, the extraction of casualties, first aid and the hand over of casualties to St Johns Ambulance Service while awaiting the arrival of the Rescue helicopter. Once St Johns have arrived our firefighters have assisted with application of spine boards and, eventually, the transport and loading of casualties to the Rescue helicopter.
Due to the recent frequency of the Rescue helicopter’s presence in our district the Brigade hopes to conduct further training and information with Rescue 651 and St. Johns ambulance service in the future, involving casualty extraction from a vehicle incident. This will also involve Armadale FRS and Armadale SES unit. With more opportunities to train and learn along the Rescue helicopters, the Brigade looks forward to a strengthening our working relationship with Rescue crews and Armadale VFRS and FRS.
Flashover: What did your brigade take away in terms of lessons learnt?
The main thing the Brigade took away from the training exercise was:
- The revision of the various radio channels required to communicate with different emergency service aircraft. This permits us to continue to assist with the landing of Rescue helicopters in the future.
- We also learned that, although we as ground crew may select a landing area, the Rescue helicopter crew will make the final determination upon an appropriate landing site to ensure the safety of the crew and those below attending an incident. Consequently, first responders need to ensure that the helicopter when landing has at least 50 metres of clearance on all sides.
- From a safety perspective, ground crews were also advised by the helicopter crews to turn emergency lights and beacons off as the helicopter makes a final descent. This is as the lights pollute the pilot’s vision and can impede the use of night vision. Furthermore, the helicopter has ample lighting to illuminate the landing site once it has identified the area by the presence of beacons.
Thanks for taking the time out to speak with us and stay safe!