We are constantly told in NSW, Australia that we need a pocket knife, pen and paper, at least five litres of drinking water, food, medication if required, length of rope, lighter, torch, compass.. the list goes on. These are things we are not provided with but are required to lug around in the moutains or the bush in addition to all of the PPE provided and tools required for the job. Can anyone share with me and others the best methods for storage of these items and how they manage to carry all of this stuff around without it impeding their movement.
If your Fire Authority there in Australia is requiring you to have all of this equipment they should be purchasing it for you, or eventually reimbursing you for it in some manner. And a military type ruck sack works well, or some type of hiking backpack, for carrying it all. I can't help you much though, I'm in an urban area in The States, and we're lucky if we have 2 or 3 small brush fires a year. Hopefully someone with more wildland firefighting experience will chime in.
I don't have a great deal of bush fire experience just like Doug but here's my take. Has anyone ever explained why you need certain items, it would help to understand each items usefullness. Items are required in three categories , must have, should have and nice to have. When you have to carry everything on your back I would think you take the must haves and the rest needs to wait if possible. It would be nice to have a lo of different things but experience should soon teach you what you MUST have., Remember it's your back and an exhausted fire fighter is of little use to anybody.
They tell you to drag all that crap around, the reality is in NSW we do most of our work within 200 meters of the trucks and don't need it. The big list of kit is for RAFF (Remote Area Fire Fighting) where you are far from your truck. I think this is defined as more than 800 meters. For that you want a military rucksack or some similar solution...of greater use is having "levels" of gear for the type of work you are doing. What to you keep in your pockets? What do you have for "away from the truck," and what do you carry when you are remote? I'll take a stab at the first two, and would love to hear comments on my lists.
I'm new to fighting bush fire (most of my time has been in very urban areas) but here's a generic crack at the kit you should carry:
In your gear - this is the stuff you should have in your yellow turnouts all the time:
1) all of the PPE the RFS issued you. This includes gloves, goggles, flash-hood, and that stupid paper mask they issue.
2) A nappy/dish-towel/rag to tie around your face when breathing bush smoke. Any of the older blokes can show you what I'm talking about. This has the added bonus of covering more of your face. You will find the radiant heat is brutal and will want a big one of these. Make sure if fits well BEFORE you go out in the field! A neat trick is to stash this in your helmet so you don't lose an entire pocket
3) Sunnies - go to Bunnings and buy a $5 pair of safety glasses that are tinted. I'm always getting hit in the face with branches and crap
4) matches or a flint & steel "sparker" - don't carry a lighter, they can burst into flame if a spark hits them!
5) all-in-one "Leatherman" style tool (I have a Victorinox, there are lots of good ones)
6) you will figure out some other stuff you like to have on you, the above kit leaves at least 2 of your pockets empty. I tend to carry spare rubber bands for rolling hose, a couple of spanners, spare gloves, a whistle and a mirror. Make sure you have smokes if you need them, the woods is a long way from everything if you are having a nici-fix.
For working 1-800 meters from the truck, I've found it useful to have a small bag to hang off my web belt to avoid having to return to the truck for bits and bobs. A military ammo pouch works well for this. I think my standard kit is:
1) Canteen - a couple of litres is fine if you are near the truck. You burn 1-2 litres/hour, pack accordingly
2) compass - which you need to know how to use
3) sun block
4) snacks - something that won't melt (like chocolate), and will still be somewhat edible if you forget it's in there for a year
5) Basic first aid stuff (band aids, moleskin for blisters, etc)
6) mirror for signalling
7) Rescue blanket - you never know
8) a second hand towel so I can clean my hands or soak it and put it across my neck to cool off.
I don't bother with a flashlight, water purification, rope, real food, or anything I don't think I'll use. For that stuff you can run back to the truck. All of this stuff gets pretty heavy after a few hours work, so you really want to think it through. Your team will need to lug a ton of equipment to do it's work, so pack light!
A ruck-sack or a large day pack should handle the job....BUT, make sure it has a waist belt...keeps the load close to you and allows your hips to bear some of the weight....I like a bladder style pack that you can carry your fluids in...they have a tube and bite valve end for easy access...and yes they should be buying them for you.....
Last time I went out I had a camel pak then over that a back pack with pockets on the waist strap, they came in handy. Essentials I'll take out is a pair of comfy work gloves, a pair of fire fighting gloves switch out as needed, waterproof matches, toliet paper, ppe, hand tool, fire shelter, googles and sunglasses, hard candies like jolly ranchers, flashlight, granola bars, if I'm gonna be out for a few days I'll take MRE's, a leatherman knife, a straight blade knife, extra socks, extra laces, rope. Depending on the fire depends on what I take. There are all sorts of different carrying devices for wildland fire fighting. Goto www.google.com and type in wildland equipment or something close to it and look through all the pages. My attitiude is I wanna be comfy so if I have to buy something for me to be comfy I'm gonna do it. I kinda jumped around on this post I hope it hleps
Dear Liz. I have been fighting wildland brush fires off and on since 1988. I can tell you that depending how for you have to go to fight the fire depends on how much you have to take. If I have to go 2 miles or less all I take with me is my shake and bake ( my fire shelter ) and my hand tools with about a gallon of water. But if I go futher, I will take my pack which contains more items.
I will take an extra pair of socks, a extra nomex shirt and pants, small first aid kit, an MRE or 2, a mirror and compass, a short piece of rope or webbing ( about 4 feet ), some allergy pills and asprain, some fusees, a map of the area, spare batteries for your flashlight or headlamp, a good knife. All so you might need some insect repellent, some sun block and shapstick and a hose clamp. Ths pack may weigh as much as 45 plus pounds, but you will be thankfull that you took it. P.S. maybe some Tp. Good Luck and be Safe. There is a good web site to check, The Supply Cache. Check it out
wildland brush fire = bush fire
2 miles = 3.2 kilometers
fire shelter = reflective tent thing you place yourself in if you are about to be overrun by the fire. We don't use these in the RFS.
gallon = 4 litres
pants = trousers
MRE = Meals Ready to Eat - intestinal binding agent that masquerades as dehydrated food
fusees - highway flares. I don't think these are legal in Australia
45 pounds = 20.4 kilos
TP - dunny roll
Sorry Jason, I'm bored at work and couldn't help myself!
Generally I'm on the back of a tanker and if it can't be reached by a couple of lengths of hose, we wait for it to come to us or back burn into it.
The gear I always carry in my bush fire gear is the usual safety gear being gloves and dust mask (usually 2) and then I have a torch, roll on sunscreen/insect repellant and a beanie (it can get cold at night). My goggles are always on my helmet.
When I'm on a strike team I usually carry a knive on my belt and bring a water proof bag that stays on the truck and carry extra things like food, water, dry socks, money and something to keep me busy after the hurry up and wait scenario. There is nothing worse than going with lights and sirens to a job and then having to wait in the staging area or on the side of a road for hours, while they sort out what to do with you.
Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately, although we are volunteers , we are only provided with a two piece suit, helmet, goggles, boots, flash over hood and leather gloves.
Our own brigades have to raise money for extra things for the brigades, except the basic equipment. That money usualy goes to buying extra equipment for the trucks and fire shed and facilities for the volunteers. When it comes to the required extras, you either don't use them or buy them yourself.
I happen to be the catering officer also in my brigade and can make sure we have a bit of longlife food on the truck and bottles of water also, so at least that will be taken care of!
Thanks for your reply Paul. As you may have noticed by my other comments, we either buy stuff ourselves or go without. I am thinking or purchasing one of those backpack water carrier things, any suggestions as to what to look for?