More about me...
I worked in Canberra after I graduated in 1970, as an employee of ACT Forests, full-time assisting the Chief Fire Control Officer (CFCO) of the ACT Bush Fire Council (BFC). This included plenty of time at the pointy end, being a regular fire crew member and learning the sorts of things you can only pick up by working with truly experienced bushmen/fire fighters. From the easy way (ha!) to use hand tools, water conservation, proper mop-up techniques, to observing how (and how not) to manage a crew.
As I gained experience I was moved up the command ladder, both at fires in the field, and in the Control Room. I remained acutely aware that I knew next to nothing about fire control tactics and techniques compared to those who had been doing this work for 30 plus years. I realised immediately that my most useful contribution would be to make it easier for them to do their work, rather then tell them how to do it. Over time my role became to assess what resources would be needed to control a fire by the time they arrived, send that response immediately, and then monitor crew safety and welfare, plus progress.
The most common complaint of firefighters is that they never have enough resources in the early stages of a fire – after a fire officially gets out of control there is never a shortage of resources to throw at it. Early on, when the fire is at its smallest, is the best if not the only opportunity to round it up. I spent some time refining a response guide intended to make sure we sent sufficient, and appropriate, equipment and people to deal with the size and intensity of fire they could expect to find when they got there, whether in grass or forest. This required good knowledge and understanding of all the factors which influence fire behaviour, as well as how productively fire crews can be expected to perform in short bursts, and in the longer term.
I was appointed as a visiting lecturer at the ANU and the now University of Canberra, on fire behaviour and management, to Forestry and Park Management students.
The US makers of a fire retardant hired me to start promoting ground application of their product after seeing how well it worked In the ACT. Much forest fire control in the US relied heavily on aircraft dropping fire retardant, but there seemed plenty of scope for also using it from ground tankers, both for wildfire control and for hazard reduction containment. I was also servicing all of the air tanker bases in Washington and Oregon, thereby learning about that aspect of fire control.
Fire control agencies in Australia have long believed that there is little or no role for large fixed-wing aircraft in fire control in this country, and the extreme cost of a seldom-used tool would be better spent the way we used to, in broad-scale hazard reduction burning. However, the Federal government of the day instructed CSIRO to conduct a field-scale evaluation, and I was invited to join the team. I oversaw the ground and air field operations plus the retardant base for this project, which also investigated many other facets of fire behaviour, fire control techniques, and firefighter physiology. As part of the ongoing research program, we also investigated large or other significant wildfires throughout Australia, to gather more data on fire spread and other behaviour characteristics under extreme conditions – the sorts of days we were not usually allowed to light our own, for obvious reasons. This included finding the origin of those fires.
I then rejoined the ACT BFC, spending one year as Secretary and two more years as CFCO before leaving in 1987, and becoming a full-time consultant. I have dealt with and usually been responsible for, either on site or from a control room, around about 3000 fires, from small to large (5000 ha) hazard reduction burns, research fires, and wildfires ranging from nuisance billy-fires to major several-day operations under extreme weather conditions. I’m pleased to say that my experience with very large wildfires is limited – mostly my team and I were lucky, and caught them while they were little - which is exactly what we were paid to do, and trained hard to do.
I attend relevant courses and maintain contact with my CSIRO colleagues and past workmates, to keep abreast of new developments. Fire has been around for quite a while, but we are still learning new things about it.
I have been involved in all aspects of fire management on a full-time basis since 1970, and have done it all, from the so-called grass roots level up to being in charge of a very large team. I didn’t just learn my trade from books and degree courses. I have experience running an emergency fire-fighting organisation, operating in the private sector in support of the US Forest Service, working in a research organisation, and running my own business as a consultant.
When you hire me to do a job, you are getting someone who has been there and done that, at every level, not someone who watched the video. My experience can work for you, providing an outcome that will work, with a very high level of safety and security. I charge a fair hourly rate, work fast, and deliver on time.