Bernard Maas, director of Goulpro and Goulburn Produce, spent many years in the Tarago Bush Fire Brigade in various positions from deputy captain to treasurer.
This year, “The bush itself is going to be very dry,” Bernard says, “and so with the heat coming this week, very early, we’re looking at a pretty severe bushfire season I’d say.”
When it comes to being prepared, “It’s all about being aware of what’s around your area – the grass short, no piles of rubbish, your gutters clean – everything in readines,” he says.
“One of the things that many people fail to do pre-summer season is get their existing fire pumps serviced, or even check them” he says.
“Go and drain the stale fuel out of them that was there since last year, change the oil, put fresh fuel in. Start the pumps. Give them a run to make sure they do actually operate because all that is a little bit difficult to do when you’ve got smoke and flames coming over the hill. It’s super important. Check your hoses and the rubber seals in your hoses.”
The hoses can’t have any air leaks in them, and check the nozzles too.
If a fire has started, when emergence services come to help, “Take notice of directions given. Their people are highly-trained these days, and [if] they tell people to get on move and out then they need to move. It’s all about listening to the warnings that are given and take notice of the directions given,” he says.
“The guys and girls work really hard to preserve people’s lives and property as well, and their own lives. It’s a big job.”
Bernard also points out you need to have a plan for what you will do when a fire comes, which means knowing what to do with your livestock as well as your family.
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Another layer of readiness you can add if you don’t already have one is a Firefighter pump, as Bernard referred to.
“The Davey brand of Firefighter pumps is iconic. They own the trademark ‘Firefighter’, so they’ve been around a very long time and they’ve developed into a high-quality, high-pressure pump.”
They’ve got various models, ranging from those with a smaller Honda engine through bigger GX Honda engines and models with diesel Yanmar engines.
“They’re easily transportable, they’re a one-person lift. They have a carry handle on them so they’re easy to move around,” and “they go right through to the bigger 13hp high-pressure model to put on bigger trucks and so on.”
They also have a cashback offer on at the moment.
“They maintain a reasonable price for the big task they’re set at times. They’re used for all sorts of things; shifting water around, as well as firefighting, they’re used for all kinds of spraying.”
The wet end – the pumps themselves – are Australian made “in a beaut, very high-tech factory in Melbourne.”
They have a powder-coated aluminium alloy finish “for durability and less corrosion” and in the twin-impeller models you can separate the one-piece impellers to service them. “They’re quite a good unit. If you get stones in there you can clean them out easily,” Bernard adds.
They have a suction hose which you can put into a dam or into a tank, or connect it up to a tank if you want a permanent set-up with ember sprinklers for fire protection on your house.
“Often the electricity gets turned off when there’s a fire coming towards your property so you need to be set up with a pump in your swimming pool or on a tank or [running from] a dam.”
The suction is really good too. The twin-impeller versions have 100m shut-off head and the single-impeller can pull up to 50m. The flows depend on the size of the engine. “Some of the bigger pumps are 2in suction in the nine and 13hp models.”
There is electric start available, and on top of that you can also have a pump with remote start via your smartphone, as long as you have mobile service or WiFi available. If the pump is already hooked up to a water source you can start and monitor it from wherever you are.
Bernard points out this would be handy not just for residents who need to evacuate, but also those who own a weekender and aren’t anywhere near their property when the bushfire threat comes.
The smart feature is also handy for easily managing stock water on a farm.