Coffs Harbour forestry firefighters put through their paces ahead of fire season.
Local Forestry Corporation of NSW staff have completed the first stage of their annual fire season preparations, passing tests set to determine if they have the fitness needed for firefighting conditions.
Many Forestry Corporation staff are trained as firefighters and must pass an annual fitness test, which involves walking 3.22 kilometres in less than 30 minutes wearing an 11.3 kilogram vest.
The program saw with 35 firefighters successfully completing the walk in Coffs Harbour recently. Another 21 local staff will also be tested to ensure they are ready for the bushfire season ahead.
Forestry Corporation Protection Supervisor Tom Newby, said coordinating this year’s training in the wake of COVID-19 presented a few challenges.
“Task-based assessment is important to ensure our frontline firefighters are in peak condition and ready to take on the physical rigors of firefighting in the upcoming season,” Mr Newby said.
“However this year presented a few extra challenges, as we had to adapt the process to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.
“Fortunately we could still run the assessment by limiting participants, ensuring social distancing and maintaining hand hygiene and sanitation at all times. “We also introduced electronic data capture, staggered start times and ‘overtaking rules’ to cater for participants walking at different speeds.”
The organisation will also be recruiting for new seasonal firefighters in coming weeks to support bushfire preparations.
“This year presented a few extra challenges, as we had to adapt the process to accommodate COVID-19 protocols.”
Getting ready for the fitness test not only helps firefighting, but it also helps in preventing injuries out in the bush and increasing general wellbeing, Mr Newby said.
“Firefighting is a very difficult job under extreme conditions and staff do it very well. The fitter they can be, the less likelihood there is of an injury,” Mr Newby said.
Local Forestry Corporation staff take their fire-fighting responsibilities seriously and play a crucial role in managing, preventing and fighting fires in the region’s State forests.
“Bushfires are a big risk to our forests and communities — as one of the state’s firefighting agencies, our firefighters are proud to have played an active role in last year’s devastating fires,” Mr Newby said.
“We need to be confident staff are fit and able to manage the physical pressures of the firefront, so fitness tests are a crucial part of our preparation for the official fire season each year, along with scenario-based exercises and a program of hazard reduction burning.”
Forestry Corporation is responsible for more than two million hectares of native and plantation forests and has been formally involved in firefighting for more than 100 years.
The organisation also works in partnership with the Rural Fire Service, National Parks and Wildlife Services, and Fire and Rescue NSW to help limit the impact of fire on forests and communities across the state.