Remote firefighters sharpen chopper skills

Firefighters sharpened their helicopter skills at Tumut Airport on Sunday.

THE RFS Remote Area Firefighting Team sharpened up their helicopter skills in preparation for a challenging fire season at Tumut Airport on Sunday.

Fourteen RAFT firefighters undertook their helicopter insertion techniques recertification, all passing with, um, hovering colours. Nine of these firefighters were from Tumut, three from Tumbarumba, one from Gundagai and one from Yass.

The RFS helicopter was flown in from its base in Bankstown. Riverina Highlands Zone RFS Development Officer Geoff Frowd was one of two assessors on the day, the other from Merimbula, and he was more than happy with how the team performed.

“The firefighters practiced their hover entry, which has to be done carefully or they can push the helicopter and make it move, making it difficult for the pilot,” Mr Frowd said.

The firefighters also practiced winching out from 30 feet and going back up, and hover exit.

“Everyone was deemed competent,” Mr Frowd said.

“It was really good and it gives the team a bit of practice in the lead-up to summer. We could have an interesting fire season.

Last year we did more flood work than firefighting, but it won’t be like that this year.”

The team conducts this training every year. That it went ahead was a big relief to Mr Frowd.

“I was to assess the same day in Cooma on Saturday, but it was called off due to snow,” he said.

“Luckily we had a nice sunny day here.”

The firefighters were a mix of male and female with ages ranging between early 20s and mid-50s.

The Remote Area Firefighting Team was formed in 2005, and has provided sterling service in different parts of the state since then.

One of its members, Kerrie Anne Reiners, is in British Columbia, Canada, fighting fires, and another member, Peter Symons, has just returned from there.