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Woronora Bushfire Brigade Equipment

Woronora Bushfire Brigade is a totally marine based unit, with the only vehicle being a personnel carrier. We have evolved a boat design philosophy over nearly 40 years of practical experience fighting bushfires from the water. The general principles we use when designing boats are :-

  • Aluminium is stronger and lighter than fibre glass (tupperware!), and doesn't burn.
  • Have as little superstructure as possible (or removable) to simplify getting under road bridges, and to allow easier access through mangroves. boat plan.
  • A split bow rail will allow boat crews and equipment to be easily set down on shore.
  • Twin motors are essential for reliability. We prefer outboard motors because they have a very good power to weight ratio, are easy to service and don't take up valuable space in the boat. Modern 4 stroke motors are far more fuel efficent and reliable than the old 2 stroke motors we used to use. In a open plan boat, petrol in not a safety issue and the boat can easily pass survey requirements.
  • A quick response it vital, since most fires will be burning up hills and difficult to catch. All our boats can do better than 28 knots with all equipment and a full crew.
  • Avoid sharkcat or broadbill boats unless to have deep water, or have to negotiate heavy swells. They draw a substantial amount of water and strand easily in small rivers and creeks.
  • Flat bottom boats may seem attractive, but perform poorly in anything other that glassy water; and have marginal advantages for shallow water. On the positive side, as a tender for larger boats, they can be an advantage because of their stability (not in bad weather) and ease of access.
  • If you paint your boat, leave the bottom bare. It will get scratched or knocked easily and will look tacky after only one fire season.
  • Use a large capacity pump of at least 1600 litres per minute; water supply is no problem.
  • Have a large hose complement of 38mm and 65mm hose (at least 2500 feet). The use of 25mm hose is a total waste of time. Most of the hose lays will be up hills, and hose friction and head losses become substantial.
  • An easy handled portable pump in a rectangular frame is essential. It will be used mainly for relay pumping, and crews will have to lug them up hills, over rocks and other obstructions.
  • Have a good selection of branches including fog for structure fires, foam for boat fires, and some of the older straight or AWG's to deal with low pressures on long hose lines.
  • Use a CQR plough anchor with plenty of chain for good ground holding. If you have rocky bottoms, either rig the chain to the head and have a weak link on the shank or use a reef hook.

The Brigade has three fire boats, named after prominent members of the Sutherland organisation. We have two large boats for direct fire fighting, and a small one for crew transport, mop ups and chasing spot fires. A bare minimum crew of four is usually required, with six or eight preferred (remember the hills!)

Woronora Fireboat Len Carter (1893)

This boat was built by Yamba Welding in late 1993, with a major refit in 2012, and is the largest and most heavily constructed boat we have. It has ample space for the storage of equipment and hoses. It is our first response boat (tides permitting) and its normal equipment list includes :-

  • Twin Yamaha 110Hp 4-stroke outboard motors, with 240 litres of fuel
  • Yanmar 60HP diesel motor fitted to a Hale CPB3 fire pump delivering over 1500 litres/minute at 1000 kPa, maximum pressure is 2200 kPa (pump performance curve). The discharge is connected to a header tank on the foredeck with two 38mm and 65mm deliveries, along with a 65mm water monitor used to fight boat fires or attack fires on the shore. Water can be pumped from a seachest or suction line.
  • Foam proportioning system with 70 litres of AFFF
  • A portable fire pump in a sturdy frame.
  • Approximately 120 metres of 65mm hose.
  • Approximately 600 metres of 38mm hose.
  • Two Sabre Centurion breathing apparatus with DSU's (distress signal units), intrinsicly safe torches, spare cylinders and a BACO board.
  • Communication equipment including fixed GRN (trunked radio), VHF and Marine radios and hand held fire ground radios.
  • Navigation equipment including a Humminbird GPS/Chart plotter with side-imaging sonar.
  • Safety equipment such as First Aid kits, Oxyviva and fire blankets.
  • A large selection of Akron, Hoenig, AWG, foam and straight branches.
  • Forced entry tools for structure fire fighting.
  • A selection of Y pieces and adaptors.
  • Hand tools such as brush hooks, McLeod tools, bush saws and shovels.
  • A chain saw, axe, wedges and protective equipment.
  • Drip torches and spare fuel, two-stroke and chain oil.
  • Drinking water and a ration box.
  • Marine equipment such as spare anchors, boat fenders, marker buoys, boat hook, life jackets and a life ring.

Woronora Fireboat Ray Watchorn II (1892)

This is a 7.5 metre boat that was custom designed Bill Bollard, rated 2C for limited offshore use. It has a similar equipment manifest to the Len Carter, with the following features:-

  • Cabin with lowerable targa mounting for radio antennas, beacons etc
  • Planing hull with moderate deadrise, but with a bow ramp that can be lowered to allow easy access for fire crews
  • Twin Honda 130Hp 4-stroke outboard motors, with 250l of fuel
  • Liferaft and EPIRB to allow offshore work

Woronora Fireboat Max Giles (1891)

The Max Giles is the water equivalent of a personnel carrier. It is a modified flat bottom boat build by Yamba Welding and is used to ferry crews and equipment to fires. It does have some fire fighting capability by having hand tools, a small portable pump, 600 feet of 38mm hose and some Y pieces and branches.

Personnel Carrier (1831)

A four wheel drive Land Rover Defender Extreme (110) is used to tow the smaller boats, crew transport and general brigade activities. The Defender has excellent off road capabilities and the aluminium body work means it survives the salt water environment without rusting to bits!