With the generous support of the community, Yellingbo brigade has built a specialist support vehicle to help firefighters recover from their strenuous work and prevent heat-related illnesses.
Yellingbo brigade Captain Paul Spinks said while the insulated personal protective clothing gives excellent protection from radiant heat during a firefight, it can also lead to people overheating and suffering dehydration.
The protective clothing stops the body expelling excess heat, causing the body’s core temperature to rise.
“Whether we’re attending to a house fire or bushfire, we noticed the gear that is designed to protect us can also increase the risk of heat stress,” Captain Spinks said.
“This rehab unit can help firefighters at almost any type of incident reduce the chances of suffering a heat related episode.”
The specialist rehabilitation support unit carries cooling chairs that let firefighters rapidly cool down by submerging their forearms in water. This brings their core temperature down.
Research has shown that the most effective way to combat overheating is to rest, hydrate and submerge your forearms in water.
A core temperature above 39oC is considered dangerous. Symptoms of heat-related illness include heat rashes, cramps, headaches, vomiting, exhaustion and, in severe cases, it can cause death.
Yellingbo’s support vehicle also carries marquees to protect against the elements, a large quantity of bottled water and electrolyte to mix with the water to help hydrate firefighters, hot and cold washing facilities, fans, small first-aid kits and ration packs.
It also has a light tower, plenty of perimeter lighting and the capacity to carry two breathing apparatus sets and storage for up to eight cylinders.
The vehicle is expected to be used in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne as well as the Yarra Valley.
As CFA prepares to acknowledge and celebrate the commitment of its 60,000 members during Volunteer Week (May 14-20), Yellingbo’s initiative demonstrates the innovation volunteer brigades bring to their communities.
CFA District 13 Operations Manager Dave Renkin said the unit was a great example of volunteers making things happen.
“Yellingbo identified a need to improve the health and safety of its members and took the initiative and in their own time raised money and built the rehab unit. It’s just one example of the commitment of CFA members to improving the service they provide to the community.”
It’s hoped the unit, and another in operation at Dandenong, will provide a prototype for other volunteer brigades to adopt.