Antarctic stations are paragons of self-reliance. This applies most obviously to the station Emergency Response Team, or ERT, a motley bunch of keen expeditioners ready to jump into action when required!
The most fearless and highly skilled section within the ERT are the three Fire Teams, made up of hardy expeditioners, educated in trades and university degrees before being moulded into the kind of fire-fighting mettle Stephen “Bull” McAffrey of Backdraft fame is synonymous with.
Before the wintering expeditioners head south, they spend four taxing days with the Tasmania Fire Service in Hobart, learning all the necessary components of structural and vehicle fire-fighting. No one leaves without facing their own fears at some point, be it claustrophobia or hot or smoky environments. When the training is complete, the sense of personal growth is palpable among the group.
During this training the expeditioners are taught how to correctly wear a breathing apparatus (BA) set, conduct building search techniques and correct fire-fighting procedures.
Whilst down on the ice, the Fire Teams conduct monthly fire training to maintain their high level of preparedness and skill should a fire emergency eventuate.
Over summer this can be a pleasant task, however winter brings with it new challenges. With the temperatures getting down to −30 degrees Celsius, the crew are ever aware of the challenges they face, such as frozen hoses, ice-rink slick ground, hypothermia and frostbite.
But as always, each Fire Team perseveres knowing that the winter would become far less pleasant with the absence of a key building or services following an emergency situation!