Not ‘combat’ ready

Embarrassing details have emerged over the ongoing setbacks to Traralgon’s “number one” firefighting priority, a fire truck equipped with a 42-metre rescue ladder, which is yet to see “combat” operation in the Latrobe Valley.

Despite being delivered to the Latrobe Valley last November amid great fanfare, the ‘Bronto’ truck aerial appliance, known among local firefighters as the “rescue ladder”, has sat idle in the backyard of the Traralgon Country Fire Authority station.

According to the United Firefighters Union, vital equipment for the truck was misplaced prior to delivery to Traralgon, while replacement equipment ordered included “useless, second hand, incompatible and unserviceable” items, such as a perforated fire hose. 

The union has also claimed the Bronto lacked essential protective equipment such as breathing apparatus, and a rescue stretcher bracket had not been modified, preventing it from performing high rise rescues. 

This comes as a number of recent major incidents in the Valley requiring the rescue ladder’s assistance saw aerial appliances called in from Dandenong, including the rescue of an injured worker at Yallourn Power Station in April. 

Last month, The Express reported the Bronto had yet to fight a single fire due to ongoing training delays.

The UFU said last week the ongoing delay was putting Victoria’s power supply at risk, as the truck had been commissioned exclusively to service fire risk in the region’s prominent industrial infrastructure, such as the high rise layouts in the Valley’s power industry.

A major Boxing Day fire which crippled Morwell’s EnergyBrix briquette factory in 2003, was believed to have led to the then Labor Government’s initial push for an aerial appliance to the region.

The EnergyBrix fire destroyed two factory buildings before aerial appliances arrived from Dandenong and Burwood, which the UFU said could have been contained to a single factory were Traralgon CFA equipped with a functional ladder platform. 

Country Fire Authority acting regional director Mark Potter said the CFA took full responsibility for the Bronto’s setbacks, however could not explain how vital equipment was initially misplaced. 

“The CFA have 1200 appliances across the state; it could’ve been allocated to another vehicle, we don’t know, but (the Bronto) is a highly specialised piece of equipment of the like we’ve never had in Gippsland, and as such, there’s been some challenges associated with managing its implementation.”

Mr Potter rejected suggestions the delay was caused by a lack of funding, adding the CFA was moving to “iron out” the remaining training, equipment, and personnel issues faced by the truck “as soon as possible”.