Fraser inferno sparks call for military ‘grunt’
A Coast army reservist says Queensland firefighters should use converted Bushmaster military vehicles to improve their strike power and safety levels.
Graham Bates said the bushfire raging out of control on Fraser Island and creating a public outcry would be an ideal proving ground for the converted Fire King vehicles.
Mr Bates said the armour-plated vehicles had bulletproof windows, were heat resistant and ideally suited to the tough sandy conditions.
The Fraser Island fire has been burning out of control for more than six weeks and Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assistant commissioner Gary McCormack told the media fighting fires on a sand island was challenging.
Mr McCormack said the tracks were too narrow to be used as firebreaks and were only accessible to smaller four-wheel-drive firefighting vehicles.
Mr Bates said he had seen the Fire Kings performing in action in South Australia is the same sort of conditions as on Fraser.
He said in the event of burn overs where fire trucks were engulfed by flames, the result should not be fatal.
Mr Bates said the inside cab also had special smoke filters.
“A Fire King was put under a CSIRO burn over standard, it was sitting there for 20 minutes while that bushfire flamed was simulated against the side of it,” he said.
“The vehicle was really badly scorched, however the ambient temperatures inside the cab did not rise more than 20 degrees to the normal outside temperature, so it’s survivable.
“It’s the only Australian fire vehicle that’s achieved that.”
He said the Bendigo-based Bushmaster manufacturer made 16 Fire King vehicles for use by Mount Gambier firefighters.
“Why don’t we have these start-of-the-art vehicles?
“It takes a crew of four, the crew can fight from the back of the vehicle, they don’t have to dismount.”
Mr Bates said Queensland Fire and Emergency Services told him there was no need for the heavy duty vehicles.
When he last costed the Fire Kings they were about $700,000 per unit, which he believed was a good investment.
A QFES spokesperson said the service has considered the use of converted Fire King firefighting vehicles, however they are not suitable to be used at this time.
“QFES continually assesses firefighting vehicles and vehicle technology to ensure its fleet continues to meet the needs of Queensland’s specific hazard environment,” the spokesperson said.