ACT News


ACT Fire and Rescue sets Farrer house alight for training exercise

ACT Fire and Rescue responded to a house fire in Farrer on Thursday but this time with one big difference:  it also started the fire.

As a training exercise, the firefighters set alight a government-owned former public housing property that was  to be demolished. Training station officer Craig Perks said it was an invaluable experience when compared with the Emergency Services Agency's Hume training centre.

"This is practising as real life as we can get, in a street scenario, with all the dangers you'd see in real life," Mr Perks said. "In our training out at the ESA centre, there's still that element of 'pretend' to it, but here it's real. There's people running everywhere, there's hoses running everywhere, there's a sense of urgency you can't get at a training facility."

The fire was ignited in the kitchen and after about five minutes, smoke billowed out of the front windows and flames engulfed the curtains. Once the house was alight, Mr Perks and his team had to wait for seven minutes before they were allowed to move in, because that is the expected time it would take for the first firefighters to arrive on the scene after receiving a triple-O call.

Commander Neil Maher said the exercise provided an unfamiliar environment for officers to do their jobs under added pressure.

"He needs to work out what his strategy is going to be, so he's going to have to look at smoke conditions, and the rate of the fire," Mr Maher said.


"Is he going to mount an internal attack; is there saveable life in the property? He has to make those considerations all within the first minute or so."

Though containing the fire and rescuing anyone trapped inside were important, the station officers had other priorities as well, Mr Maher said.

"They're conscious of preserving evidence straight away, so they're not just going to come in here and flood the kitchen," he said. "They know they need to preserve the fire scene for follow- up investigations."

Firefighters had the flames out within minutes, and rescued a single dummy survivor. Mr Perks said even though the exercise went well, they could never consider the scenario as ordinary.

"Nothing is ever by the book unfortunately, every single job is different," he said. "We could go to a fire in 15 minutes and it would be completely different; could be the same-looking house, same-looking fire and something different would happen."

The exercise was part of training to become a station officer. On Friday, the trainees will head into the burnt-out house to see whether they can pinpoint the cause of the fire.