ACT News


Bungendore calls for help in replacing its firefighting trucks

THE Bungendore RFS Brigade is relying on community donations to replace firefighting vehicles that have been withdrawn from service.

As fire tore through 1400 hectares of land at Sand Hills off the Kings Highway last week, as many as 20 trucks from Bungendore and surrounding brigades were brought in to battle the blaze in the worst fire conditions to hit NSW in years.

But since 2005, the number of tankers and utility vehicles at Bungendore has been reduced and the brigade wants them replaced.

The NSW RFS says there are enough resources to protect the town and extra vehicles can be called in from nearby brigades for large fires, as was done last week.

Bungendore Brigade captain Sheldon Williams said a fleet of six vehicles - two tankers, a pumper and three smaller vehicles - had been reduced to four since 2005.

A pumper on loan from the ACT had not been replaced and a Land Cruiser, useful for negotiating tight or boggy areas of bushland, had been withdrawn from service.


He said a 31-year-old troop carrier would also be retired soon because it was becoming too old.

"That will take us down to three vehicles," he said. "The RFS, while it hasn't gone backwards in its funding, has directed it towards other priorities. There are back-up plans if we send all our vehicles to a fire, as we did to Sand Hills.

"The town's not in danger but it's frustrating when we could do things more efficiently and effectively if we had another vehicle."

Last week, while Bungendore crews fought the fire 12 kilometres north of the highway, a truck from Queanbeyan was called in to the station.

But Mr Williams said the station should "ideally" have its own crews and a vehicle ready to respond to any incident in the town.

He said a truck stationed in the town could also respond more quickly to a fire or road accident than back-up crews called in from other areas.

Mr Williams said the brigade had taken the problem to Member for Monaro John Barilaro and his predecessor, Steve Whan, but was now trying to raise money for an additional vehicle through community donations.

He said a simple dual-cab would cost $30,000 to $40,000, plus $5000 to fit it out with radar equipment, while a heavy tanker could cost between $300,000 and $400,000.

"We've also approached vehicle manufacturers to see if they can discount a vehicle or even donate one to us and those conversations are still happening," he said. "Hopefully, after the summer we've had, they might be successful."

RFS Lake George zone district manager Tim Carroll said there were "no immediate plans" to supply new vehicles to Bungendore, but the station's fleet had been modernised in recent years.