Forestry crews hone skills ahead of fire season

Forty nine Forestry Corporation of NSW firefighters honed their skills recently in a five-day training camp at Mt Seaview Resort near Wauchope.
Forty nine Forestry Corporation of NSW firefighters honed their skills recently in a five-day training camp at Mt Seaview Resort near Wauchope.

Forty nine Forestry Corporation of NSW firefighters honed their skills recently in a five-day training camp at Mt Seaview Resort near Wauchope in preparation for the fire season ahead.

Staff from the Mid North Coast, Hunter, Far North Coast, North Coast, Bathurst and Pilliga Forest Protection Areas were trained in essential firefighting skills such as fire behaviour, tactics and strategy, leadership, command, control and communications, and how to operate the range of appliances and equipment used at fires.

The five-day intensive training program is designed to get new recruits nationally qualified and 'fire ready' as forest firefighters. Other more experienced firefighting staff upgraded their qualifications in Advanced Firefighter and Crew Leader roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added more complexity to this year's training, but the organisation has adapted and adjusted, said Forestry Corporation's Fire Manager, Tim McGuffog.

"2020 has thrown a few challenges to our face-to-face training camps, but we have changed our approach to make it work," Mr McGuffog said.

"One of the key ways we've adapted is to run a 'closed camp' in 2020, meaning no-one comes or leaves during the week-long training.

"We have also implemented a series of personal distancing and hygiene measures to reduce the risk of COVID."

The camps are essential for developing a skilled and capable workforce for the fire season ahead.

"Our training program is comprehensive and recruits also get the opportunity to learn other skills like using chainsaws, first aid, chemical use and driving 4WD vehicles and tankers when they return to their depots," Mr McGuffog said.

"Safety is always at the top of this list though - our firefighters' wellbeing is our biggest concern and it all comes back to correct training and procedures.

"We take our firefighting responsibilities incredibly seriously - our training ensures everyone from our most experienced firefighter through to our newest recruits are fit and ready to be deployed to the fire front.

"We also send crews to assist on large bushfires across all tenures within their local areas, interstate and even internationally, so we need to ensure we are at the top of our game."

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This story Forestry crews hone skills ahead of fire season first appeared on Port Macquarie News.