Volunteer firefighters on Kangaroo Island welcome bushfire review recommendations

 Kingscote Country Fire Service brigade captain Michael Swayne in front of the new automatic roller doors and a repaired Kingscote 24 appliance.
Kingscote Country Fire Service brigade captain Michael Swayne in front of the new automatic roller doors and a repaired Kingscote 24 appliance.

Volunteer firefighters on Kangaroo Island are optimistic positive changes will result from the Independent Review into the 2019/20 South Australian Bushfire Season.

The review released this week made 15 recommendations, including a restructure of the state's emergency management, more new fire appliances and automatic vehicle tracking.

Improvements have already started happening on Kangaroo Island with repairs to fire appliances damaged in the summer's bushfires.

The Kingscote Country Fire Service brigade has three new automatic roller doors on its station and will also soon get a 13,000-litre bulk water carrier.

Brigade captain Michael Swayne said he was confident the local brigades would be better equipped for the next fire season.

Mr Swayne led the heroic rescue of Caroline Taylor and a group of backpackers from Western River on December 21, 2019 in the first round of fires.

"And to the hero fireman who braved horrendous conditions to come down and whisk me away in his truck - Michael Swayne - he was incredible. He saved me and the three backpackers," Ms Taylor told the Islander at the time.

He and fellow Kingscote brigade members were also in the Kingscote 24 appliance driving out Flinders Chase National Park in hellish conditions on January 3.

The melted door handles, mirrors and other plastic from around the outside of the fire engine had now been replaced, while other battle scarred appliances on KI had also been repaired.

Mr Swayne said he was confident with equipment provided by the CFS but that the KI volunteers had not yet had a chance to hold a proper debrief because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We are still living with what happened and we need to get together to go though things properly," he said.

Fellow KI volunteer firefighter, Andy Wood has also eagerly awaited the release of the review.

Mr Wood is president of both the Country Fire Service Volunteers Association and Council of Australian Volunteer Fire Associations.

He also gave evidence on Friday, July 3 to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements.

Kangaroo Island resident and volunteer fire representative Andy Wood giving evidence to the bushfire Royal Commission and appearing on ABC News.

Kangaroo Island resident and volunteer fire representative Andy Wood giving evidence to the bushfire Royal Commission and appearing on ABC News.

Mr Wood will still going through the details of the SA independent review but was pleased with what he had seen so far.

"From a volunteer's association perspective, the Keelty review has supported many of the positions we have taken over the years," he said.

Firstly, the review was recommending an independent chairman for and restructure of the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM).

The need for Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) and burnover protection systems were something the association had called for many years, he said.

News in the review of an investment in 25 new fire appliances for the CFS was also good news and would speed up the CFS truck replacement schedule.

"This will result in newer equipment for all brigades," he said.

Regarding any recommendation and lack of direction on hazard reduction and fuel loads on Kangaroo Island, Mr Wood said the reality was that these were responsibilities for land managers at a state and local government level.

The CFS volunteers were willing to assist in hazard reduction programs, but these need to be led by land managers, he said.

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