Wildfire Safety.

At the fire

Officers in charge, Captains, group officers, crew and strike team leaders' first responsibility is for welfare and safety of their crew. When working with other agencies be aware that your instructions should come from the Incident Controller through the normal chain of command.Obtain as much fire behaviour information, maps and firefighting instructions as possible prior to active firefighting. Be informed. If you don't understand your instructions, say so!

Inform the Officer in Charge of your deployment. Do not "self" deploy and neglect to tell someone.

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Observe changes in the weather, fuel and topography of the country you are working. When moving into areas of high fire hazard understand the risks. Think! Consider the value of assets you are attempting to save. Consider the risks to crew and tanker

Make sure you always have at least one escape route. Use the "buddy system" (never let anyone work alone). Don't allow your crew to "get out of sight". Look after your mates -working together without separating too far. Supervision and frequent communication with officers is important. Keep watching where members of your crew are. Make regular situation reports so that you can give and receive important information about the fire and your safety.

Monitor crew behaviour. Crew members must watch for any sign of panic amongst each other. They must be encouraged not to break away from the team. Panic in one crew member can cause others to panic.

Rest your crew regularly, ensure that they have plenty of drinking water and check they are not suffering from heat exhaustion.

Radiant Heat

Radiant heat can kill you, if you are unprotected, in heave fuels or caught in front of a fast moving fire. Fire intensity will be affected by the amount and type of fuel available to the fire, and the rate of spread of the fire. Fire intensity will be greatest at the headfire.Shield yourself from the heat source as radiant heat only travels in straight lines. If you are trapped by an approaching fire you can protect yourself by having a barrier between you and the radiant heat. Radiant heat will not "bend" around the barrier.

If you are trapped some of the best ways to shield yourself from radiant heat are:

cover all exposed skin as much as possible with a natural fibre like wool or drill cotton (not synthetic which is why CFA insist on all firefighters wearing overalls treated with PROBAN) by finding a refuge, including:-in a house-in a vehicle-behind rocks and logs-buried in the earth/existing fire dugouts-in holes made by fallen trees-in deep wheel ruts-in running streams or pools (not water tanks)

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you should avoid elevated water tanks because a body immersed in lukewarm water cannot sweat and at a temperate of 460 C, a state of collapse will be reached in about three minutes.

Wool blankets from your tanker can also help reduce radiant heat.

Don't wet the woollen blanket is this can cause severe scalding.

Smoke Inhalation

A disposable face mask or a cloth bandana can help. Fine particles which lodge in bronchial tubes can make breathing difficult. Avoid inhalation of smoke and superheated air by crouching low. Hot air rises and cooler air may be found close to the ground. Goggles can protect your eyes from smoke particles. Limit your breathing rate when smoke is dense and wait for the arrival

Dehydration/Heat stress

    Wear appropriate protective clothing and equipment that is designed to provide maximum air movement, hence cooling. It is important that heavy turnout coats are not worn in this environment, as it will lead to heat stress.   Carry cool drinking water on the vehicles with you.                                                                                                        Drink water frequently. Firefighters can lose more than one litre of fluid per hour through sweating. This fluid must be replaced to prevent heat related illnesses. Increase your body fluid levels before work commences, particularly in hot conditions.Beware of heat stress. Large losses of sweat result in dehydration

    and this is characterised by thirst. fatigue, giddiness, and anxiety, leading to poor decisions and in a more advanced stage, delirium and heat stroke. If you fail to drink water frequently, body temperature climbs dangerously  subjecting you to heat stroke.

     You should try and drink 150-200m1 every 10-15 minutes. Avoid tea or coffee as they tend to increase dehydration. Also avoid "fizzy" drinks as they can slow dehydration. Rake hoe work on rough ground under fire weather conditions means added heat burden.

     Pace yourself.  Take regular short breaks between longer rest periods.  If you are physically fit you may withstand greater physical work under severe fire weather conditions. Firefighters who suffer from heat related illnesses should be removed from the fireground, even though they may appear to have recovered. Any firefighter affected should seek medical attention.

 

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Take a rest period

Drink plenty of water

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