21 December 2020

Five-day Bombala bootcamp prepares forestry firefighters for season ahead

| Edwina Mason
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Forestry Corporation of NSW truck driving in forest.

Forestry Corporation of NSW workers in action during a recent fire-training bootcamp. Photo: Supplied.

Forestry Corporation of NSW firefighters recently honed their skills in preparation for this summer’s bushfire season during a five-day training camp at Bombala.

Staff from the Bombala, Tumut, South Coast, Coffs Harbour and Walcha 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 for 36 participants was 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.

Forestry Corporation of NSW’s fire manager, Tim McGuffog, said the camps, which are regularly conducted throughout the state, are considered necessary 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 such as using chainsaws, first-aid, chemical use and driving 4WD vehicles and tankers when they return to their depots,” he said.

“Safety is always at the top of this list. 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.”

Mr McGuffog said Forestry Corporation of NSW also deploys crews to assist with large bushfires across all tenures within their local areas, interstate and even internationally.

“We need to ensure we are at the top of our game,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has added more complexity to this year’s training, but Mr McGuffog said the organisation has adapted and adjusted.

“2020 has thrown a few challenges to our face-to-face training camps, but we have changed our approach to make it work,” he 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-19.”

Forestry Corporation of NSW is responsible for preventing and managing fires in two million hectares of state forests.

There are close to 33,000 hectares of predominately radiata pine plantations in the Bombala management area. Around 30 per cent of these plantations were impacted by bushfires during the past summer.

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