Interstate bushfire crews came to Queanbeyan with faulty trucks

NSW Rural Fire Service escort Bungendore's
NSW Rural Fire Service escort Bungendore's "Firies' Fridge" to the National Museum of Australia. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

A Queensland strike team sent to Queanbeyan to help during the summer's bushfires was forced to contend with faulty trucks, including one that had a dodgy pump and another that had to climb hills in first gear.

The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements heard on Friday about the role strike teams played during the Black Summer bushfires.

John Stalker of the Samford Rural Fire Brigade in Queensland told the commissioners the state deployed a number of appliances - fire trucks - and firefighters to help in NSW during the fires, including in the Braidwood, South Coast and ACT areas.

"That in itself proved problematic to our firefighters because a number of those vehicles were no longer fit for purpose," Mr Stalker said.

A number of the vehicles deployed in the Queanbeyan area had "continuous mechanical issues".

"For example, one of the vehicles could only travel 85 kilometres per hour. Whenever it climbed a hill, it had to do it in first gear. It was finally taken offline in day four," Mr Stalker said.

Another vehicle had a dodgy pump, which had been that way since they took delivery of it, Mr Stalker said.

"It had about 40 per cent pump capacity. Again, it had to be taken offline," he said.

Another vehicle had a flat tyre "and it took the tools off three vehicles to be able to change it".

"The vehicles were sent to NSW with only minimum firefighting equipment on them, they basically as far as I understand they had the hose reel and pump and a couple of other things," Mr Stalker said.

"If it wasn't for the well-oiled machine in Queanbeyan with NSW Rural Fire Service, who were able to locate and provide appropriate equipment, those vehicles wouldn't have been able to achieve much on the fireground."

Mr Stalker said the division was still trying to access basic equipment, including fire hose nozzles and extra foam.

Peter Bennett from the Katoomba-Leura Fire Brigade said he lost his team's main truck for six months while it helped fight fires across the state.

"When we finally got it back, it had $18,000 worth of repairs done," Mr Bennett said.

"The defects were quite extensive before we were able to get it back to being a working fire truck again."

Bruce Forrest of the Beechworth Rural Fire Brigade in Victoria said there were long-standing issues with radio communications between rural fire services from different jurisdictions.

"Yes, yes, it's always challenging because the radio communications don't work. All you can do is line of sight. Hopefully you've got a UHF radio and the RFS have got a UHF radio and you're on the same channel. The Murray River is between you, apart from getting out and waving, there's not much you can do," he said.

"Usually if we're deployed in NSW we go as a strike team, so you have a command vehicle that will have contact with the local RFS but then they have to disseminate the messages through to the trucks."

The royal commission will continue on Monday.

This story Interstate bushfire crews came to Queanbeyan with faulty trucks first appeared on The Canberra Times.

Comments