The 75th Casey ANARE winter team have been busy taking on their new station duties – in particular, fire team duties. As part of station handover, the outgoing fire chiefs familiarised the incoming fire team with site-specific knowledge about equipment available on station and firefighting techniques suited to this unique environment.
The new fire crew undertook four days of intense training with the Tas Fire Service in Hobart prior to departure. We learnt how to don fire resistant clothing and breathing apparatus, consisting of an oxygen tank and mask. We practised 'bowling out' hoses and connecting them to the fire truck to charge them with water, as well as how to enter a smoke-filled building to search for people and extinguish a fire (if safe to do so).
Firefighting in Antarctica presents some interesting challenges. Even slightly warmed water in fire hoses can freeze rather quickly – especially when the temperature gets below minus 30°Celsius in winter. Hoses should therefore only be deployed at the last minute to maximise the time the water remains liquid. In some cases fire extinguishers may be more reliable.
As fire resistant clothing is designed to protect from heat rather than the cold (unlike our toasty warm Antarctic survival gear), we also need to be mindful of heat loss. If an alarm sounds, the fire team should assemble and wait inside for the fire chief to confirm it's not a false alarm before deploying to the scene.
The station has a specially decked-out Hägglunds fire truck, on rubber tracks instead of wheels, driven by a trained operator. One member of our fire team has been assigned this task, together with operating the pump and being ready with a shovel to dig out hydrants submerged by snow.
After getting up to speed on all the above, the new fire team successfully performed a simulated rescue of our faithful firefighting dummy, afterwhich we hung up our turnout gear on the on-call fire team's hooks, ready for action!
Tune in next week as we provide more on the station's handover from the outgoing 74th ANARE to the current 75th incumbents …
- Brenden Sainty (On call fire chief)