High-tech cameras, safer fire trucks and hundreds of new volunteers to boost SA’s firefighting capacity

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New trucks that can better shelter firefighters trapped in a firestorm, as well as high-tech cameras and hundreds of new volunteers, are set to boost South Australia’s defences ahead of the next summer bushfire season.

The Montacute Country Fire Service station, in the Adelaide Hills, this week received a new dual-cab fire truck, capable of more effectively sheltering firefighters trapped in a blaze.

It is one of 25 new trucks to be delivered to South Australian CFS stations this year.

Thermal-imaging cameras capable of detecting missing people and alerting crews to hidden fire dangers will be delivered to each of the state’s country fire stations.

Six hundred new volunteers have also been recruited to join the firefighting effort this coming bushfire season.

The new equipment is part of a $97.5 million spend by the South Australian Government in response to the Keelty Report into the last bushfire season.

Former Australian Federal Police commissioner Mick Keelty’s report found there needed to be a significant financial investment to properly equip brigades for the 2020-21 season.

New trucks to protect trapped firefighters

SA Country Fire Service chief officer Mark Jones said he was pleased to see what he described as “modern trucks” coming into the fleet.

“Getting rid of those single cab [vehicles] will be a major step forward,” he said.

“This is a significant investment in the safety of the citizens of South Australia and of our firefighters.”

A white fire truck spraying water from its front.
This new fire truck is among 25 to be delivered to Country Fire Service stations around South Australia.(ABC News)

He said there were more than 800 fire trucks in South Australia.

Replacing all single-cab trucks with dual-cabs would make volunteers safer on the fire ground, he said.

Montacute CFS captain Steve Golding said he was extremely pleased to receive the new truck ahead of this year’s season.

He said it featured breathing equipment that would protect firefighters against noxious fumes and it also included better pumps, more water outlets and greater capacity to hold water.

“It’s a significant advantage from what we previously had,” he said.

Thermal-imaging cameras to detect hidden dangers, missing people

Mr Golding said the new thermal-imaging camera delivered to his station would help detect hidden hot spots and prevent spot fires.

He said his firefighters had to scramble following the Cudlee Creek bushfire last year because they did not have the equipment to detect hidden smouldering matter.

“We were at Cudlee Creek eight days after the fire broke out,” he recalled.

A man in a CFS hat and uniform in front of a fire truck (centre) with another man in a collared shirt.
Montacute Country Fire Service captain Steve Golding (centre) said thermal-imaging cameras would have helped in the aftermath of the Cudlee Creek bushfire.(ABC News)

“Come the afternoon when it heated up and the wind came up, and suddenly there’s all these spot fires everywhere.

“If we’d had a camera it would have been much easier.”

CFS chief officer Jones said the cameras were also useful because they could detect missing people in buildings.

Governments ‘failed to implement previous recommendations’

A key observation from the Keelty Report was that South Australian governments had failed to implement recommendations from successive reviews into bushfires in the state.

“This review notes that there have been many previous reviews and inquiries into bushfires in South Australia [but] not all the recommendations accepted by government have been audited for implementation,” it reads.

An aerial view of grey and greenish smoke from a bushfire on Kangaroo Island
Bushfires raged across Kangaroo Island for weeks in December and January.(Instagram: Trent Lawson/tmanadventure)

Emergency Services Minister Vincent Tarzia said the Marshall Government was working quickly address Mr Keelty’s recommendations.

He said the Government had learned from the devastation of the 2019-20 bushfire season.

“The Keelty Review was completed, and actions taken immediately, so we can better manage bushfires and the impact they have on our communities,” Mr Tarzia said.

“The Marshall Liberal Government’s action plan is already equipping South Australia with state-of-the-art equipment and resources in preparation for future fire threats.”

He added that the Government was hoping to establish a “permanent, paid resource” on Kangaroo Island which was ravaged by bushfires over December and January “hopefully this bushfire season”.

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