CFA Cluster brigade training

Visiting CFA instructor Kenric Carter, taking volunteer firefighters through various pumping skills.

Local CFA brigades have been meeting in cluster groups to train together in preparation for the hot summer season ahead.

What is a normal training night for a volunteer firefighter?

Depending on the size of the brigade, training nights (or days) can be weekly, monthly or bi-monthly as a regular schedule; however, during the COVID pandemic, many brigades found it hard to maintain a regular schedule of training.

With a hot and dry fire season forecasted ahead, quality training is required to get volunteer members fire-ready.

What is cluster brigade fire training?

CFA District 10 training team introduced a novel concept of cluster group training each fortnight, “it aims to get brigades that often respond to the same events to become familiar with other brigade’s trucks and members of other brigades”, says volunteer Anthony Kovco, 3rd lieutenant and Brigade Training Officer (BTO) of Maffra Brigade.

Initially, the first two cluster training nights were led by CFA visiting instructors who could share some expertise that local brigades had not often been exposed to. Delivering the training was a joint effort between visiting firefighters and experienced volunteer firefighters. After the initial two training nights, the brigades take turns hosting a training night in their patch.

“We have about 24 members in our (Boisdale) brigade, with about seven regularly turning out to emergency call-outs,” Boisdale Brigade firefighter Paul Bawden said.

“When it was our turn to host the training night we had BTO Kovco (also president of the Boisdale Hill Climb) to help us to create some scenarios at the hill climb track. This included trees over tracks and using chainsaws, using drip torches and extinguishing fires using water and rake hoe techniques, followed up by some use of the thermal imaging camera as part of the ‘mop-up’.”

The cluster training has helped volunteers not only develop their skills but also meet other volunteers whom they would most likely later end up meeting again on a dark night at the side of a road, shed or paddock to fight a fire.

“At an emergency event, it is always reassuring to see familiar faces greeting you as you arrive on scene to see lights flashing, the noise of water pumping and a sea of yellow uniforms doing a great job to protect their community,” Boisdale Brigade 1st Lieutenant Dee Dorber said.

How can the community find out more?

The Maffra, Tinamba, Newry, Valencia Creek and Boisdale cluster, plus some other neighbouring brigades, will be coming together to conclude the season preparation and meet up to share ideas and plans for the summer over a sausage sizzle by the park.

They would like to invite the local community to come along to meet the volunteers protecting their community and ask questions about how they can prepare for the summer ahead or how to become a volunteer.

The sausage sizzle will take place on Sunday, December 17, at 12pm at the playground opposite the CFA Boisdale fire station. Everyone is welcome.

Firefighters Imogen and Tammy Chilton (Boisdale Brigade) at the end of the fire hose, practicing branch techniques, while other members in the background share knowledge about different trucks and the pumping techniques. Photos: Contributed

Valencia Creek, Boisdale and Tinamba Fire tankers simulating an entrapment drill.