Page 22 - Smoke Signals Autumn/Winter 2017
P. 22

How first peoples and drones are shaping the
future for this 61-year-old rural fire brigade
By Barry Child, First Officer Kuranda/Myola Rural Fire Brigade
ANCIENT Indigenous traditions and sky-high technology are the keys to the future for Kuranda Myola Rural Fire Brigade.
The brigade’s headquarters can be found on Myola Road - a short drive from Kuranda - on the Barron River in the Cairns hinterland.
The brigade’s catchment covers multiple Indigenous communities, private landholdings and Parks and Wildlife- controlled natural habitats.
The brigade might be turning 61 in October but, under the control of First Officer Barry Child, it’s not resting on its laurels.
Over the coming year, the brigade will improve its firefighting capabilities by strengthening its relationship with local first peoples and embracing equipment that will give it a bird’s eye view of the fire- field during times of danger.
Barry says it’s important to understand how Indigenous Australians used fire to look after their homelands.
Indigenous people don’t just light fires randomly, their knowledge and experience ensures they know when to burn, where to burn and how to execute a burn so it does no cause damage to other areas.
Not only are fire-managed regions safer, they end up having really strong and diverse habitats for a huge range of natural flora and fauna.
Barry said his organisation was committed to working with the local Indigenous communities and that the first people’s knowledge of fire and bush was invaluable.
“We’ve got two Indigenous firefighters
and we’ll have another six rangers onboard soon,” he said.
“There are many brigades up at the Cape that are fully Indigenous but I don’t know of many other brigades that have a mix of cultures like ours.
“It’s the Indigenous connection to country and burning of country that is really important.
“We’re going to train the new rangers up and in exchange they will work with us and bring their knowledge to the brigade.”
Barry said the biggest challenge for Kuranda Myola RFB members was navigating extremely steep terrain where vehicles could easily get stuck during times of intense danger.
“We’re always facing challenges with getting access into the rural areas and crown land, the rough terrain and a lack of hydrants,” he said of the brigade’s other main issues.
“There’s also an increasing number of houses and burn-offs as more people move into the area.
“In the past fires started by the trains was an issue, but that is not so much now.
“One of our biggest challenges is recruiting young people so the brigade doesn’t become exclusively a dad’s army.”
Barry said he expected the brigade to attend more fires than usual this year because of rising temperatures.
“The members recognise that it’s not ‘business as usual’ and that we might well be called out to an increasing number of incidents as the year progresses,” he said.
“With that in mind the brigade has
introduced a new recruitment and training regime and is continually re-evaluating our technology and equipment needs with an eye to the future.”
The purchase of a camera-equipped drone will help the brigade and dramatically reduce helicopter “spotting” fees that can cost Queensland and Fire Emergency Services around $8000 an hour.
Only one brigade in Queensland is believed to be using drones in the fire- field.
“We’ll be able to see live what’s happening out there,” Barry said of the technology.
“The drone will accurately plot the position of inaccessible fires and their behaviour - for example the flame height and the forward rate of spread.”
Barry said the brigade’s “wish-list” also included a control point in the fire shed that would come with internet connectivity and “a 41 appliance as we have a number of proprieties to protect that are not accessible with our 51 unit.”
AT A GLANCE
About the Kuranda Myola Rural Fire Brigade
• Established in October of 1961.
• The brigade is part of the Clohesy River Group that also includes the Koah,SpeewahandDaviesCreek RFBs.
• A UHF radio repeater on Mt Haren allows all brigades in the region to communicate over a wide area on the one fire-ground channel.
• Kuranda has an auxiliary urban fire station in town.
• Some of the Kuranda rural volunteers help the auxiliary team when needed.
• The auxiliary and rural teams often undertake cross-training that benefits both groups.
• The brigade receives professional leadership and training opportunities from the Cairns Rural Fire Service executive team.
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