Forestry Corporation staff fit and ready for fire season

Forestry Corporation firefighters who will be called on to protect the State’s valuable pine plantations in the central west are already undergoing rigorous fitness tests to make sure they are prepared for the coming fire season.

Forestry Corporation operations forester Ms Claire Byrne said Forestry Corporation now required all staff who attend fires to undergo medical examinations and task-based fitness assessments to ensure they are ready to meet the physical demands of the job.

She said more than 80 staff from Canobolas, Black Springs, Bathurst and Sunny Corner are being assessed.

The assessments began in August with medical examinations and continued in September at George Park, corner of Browning and Rankin Streets at Bathurst, with a physical fitness test.

A further physical fitness test will take place on Friday 8 October at George Park Oval.

Ms Byrne said firefighting was a very demanding task and it was important for firefighters to be fit and ready for on-ground firefighting.

“Wild fires often require a quick response for the first attack followed up by long periods of strenuous fire fighting, frequently in arduous conditions,” she said.

“To cope with these conditions, health and fitness is an essential part of safely approaching the fire season from an individual and team perspective.

“Speed is also essential. If we get there quickly a fire caused by lightning strike can be contained to just a few metres.

“This requires men and women who can move quickly with heavy equipment or hoses.”

She said Forestry Corporation highly trained fire-fighting team comprises permanent staff and seasonal employees who are ready not only to fight in the region but also to travel to other areas of the State to fight fires.

Ms Byrne said all Forestry Corporation staff who perform fire-related roles are required to demonstrate an appropriate medical and physical fitness level that meets an international standard.

The medical and physical fitness tests have been designed after reviewing similar programs both overseas and in other states where scientists have studied firefighting.

The physical test involves carrying an 11.3-kilogram pack over 3.22 kilometres in less than 30 minutes.

“It was not a problem for most of our staff as many have been in training and others already have a high level of fitness.

“To date, more than 95 per cent of our staff have passed the test on the first time around,” Ms Byrne said.

“It was pleasing to see our firefighters approach the assessment in a very positive manner as they see it as a way of further ensuring their personal safety and ultimately the safety of those around them.

“We know that the fire season is relatively severe in northern NSW and that we could be called upon to assist up there at anytime.

“We are still not sure what the fire season has in store for us here. It will depend on spring and summer rains. But in any case, our firefighters will be physically fit and ready to go whatever the fire season brings.”

Media contact: Claire Byrne on (02) 6331 2044.

Media welcome to attend Friday 8 October fitness test George Park Oval, Browning Street , from 8:30am.

Photos available by contacting Sarah Chester on (02) 6036 2110 or 0417 207 669.