Country Fire Service offers new program for farm firefighting units

FARM UNITS: A steady stream of Kangaroo Island farm fire units arrived at Parndana Oval ready to be checked over at the last registration day in December 2020. Photo: Stan Gorton
FARM UNITS: A steady stream of Kangaroo Island farm fire units arrived at Parndana Oval ready to be checked over at the last registration day in December 2020. Photo: Stan Gorton

A new program under trial by the SA Country Fire Service will provide better coverage for participating farm firefighting unit operators.

The program will look to provide FFU operators that register with the CFS at firegrounds better access to safety and insurance arrangements this fire danger season.

The value of South Australia's farm units was highlighted through various post-season reports from the 2019-2020 Black Summer season.

Kangaroo Island's landowners worked tirelessly, risking everything to save their own and each other's properties.

Father and son Dick and Clary Lang paid the ultimate price when overtaken by flames, water tank in tow, between bushland and timber plantations just shy of the oval at Gosse on Jan. 3, 2020.

The KI community has led the way when it comes to farm fire fighting, and will be organising another registration day this year.

Meanwhile fundraising efforts and allocation of safety gear and two-way radios for farm unit operators continues on the Island.

CFS farm unit video

CFS executive director frontline services support, Georgie Cornish said the agency was acting on the recommendations of the Keelty Review by introducing the trial farm firefighter program.

"We are encouraging owners of FFUs to register with the CFS, so that we can work together when they respond with our volunteers to bushfires," Ms Cornish said.

"By better coordinating our approach with FFU operators on the fireground, we will be able to provide improved support for everyone helping on the fireground."

Operators are invited to register their units and find more details about the program at: https://cfs.sa.gov.au/prepare-for-a-fire/farm-fire-units/

Emergency services minister Vincent Tarzia also acknowledged the crucial role FFU's play during bushfires.

"The FFU community is undoubtedly dedicated to protecting lives and property," Mr Tarzia said.

"FFU efforts - especially at the Cudlee Creek, Yorketown and Kangaroo Island fires - highlights their importance as we all work together to create a more bushfire resilient South Australia."

This was in part why the state government initiated the Keelty Review into the tragic 2019-2020 fire season, delivering a $97.5 million action plan to boost South Australia's defence against bushfires, he said.

UNIT HELPER: Sabrina Davis from Humans of Kangaroo Island hands a farm fire safety kit to Chris Smith from the Yumbah abalone farm at the 2020 farm fire unit registration day at the Parndana Oval in December 2020. Photo: Stan Gorton

UNIT HELPER: Sabrina Davis from Humans of Kangaroo Island hands a farm fire safety kit to Chris Smith from the Yumbah abalone farm at the 2020 farm fire unit registration day at the Parndana Oval in December 2020. Photo: Stan Gorton

KI farm unit efforts

Sabrina Davis from western KI has been part of the CFS FFU pilot project working together with the agency as a local liaison, assisting with the registration process.

Through her Humans of Kangaroo Island project to equip farm units, Mrs Davis has also now handed out 225 personal protection equipment kits with fire-proof pants, goggles, gloves and masks.

Fundraising has also provided about 40 pairs of two-way UHF radios to farmers, who lost theirs in the fires or were doing without.

The project has also seen six quick-fill pumps strategically placed around the Island, with caretakers to look after them and bring them to future fire grounds.

"This has all been achieved thanks to the amazing support of the wider Australian community, local and mainland businesses and many donations from community groups," she said.

"Special thanks to Rotary International and The Hospital Research Foundation and my many helpers."

She's had many donations of items and money over the last few months still, including funds raised by local member Leon Bignell with his Dusty Draught campaign done in conjunction with Pirate Life Brewery.

There will be more to report as she had ordered more equipment, including fire-resistant woolen blankets, to give to the units.

The Kangaroo Island FFU registration day meanwhile will take place at Parndana again sometime in November, date to be announced.

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