Firefighters will be better equipped to undertake all sorts of rescues across the region with the arrival of a new rescue support vehicle.
From rescues involving cars, trucks, trains and buses, 22 members of Ballarat Fire Brigade are equipped and trained to respond to a variety of rescues.
"We do anything that requires specialised rescue equipment," Brigade Captain Mark Cartledge said.
The list also includes industrial rescues, high-angle rope rescues, trench rescues and rescues from confined spaces such as silos or water tanks.
Rescue calls can also involve animals or freeing a child who has stuck their finger in a plug hole or has their head stuck in a fence.
The Country Fire Authority brigade is responding to an ever-increasing number of such calls, with accredited rescue volunteers turning out to an average of 140 each year.
The rescue crews respond to incidents within a 30-minute radius in every direction from the Barkly Street Station - down towards Gordon across to Beaufort, Skipton, Rokewood, Meredith and north to Newlyn. But if needed, they can travel anywhere in the state.
The brigade formed its rescue unit in 1976 when it became clear that such a service was needed in the community and a number of vehicles have been used to support rescue crews since.
Thirty years ago a Commodore wagon was employed and over the years was upgraded to various other makes and models, including a Holden Rodeo, Nissan Patrol, Toyota Hilux and most recently a Ford Transit.
With the increase in the number of rescue calls and with constantly evolving new technology and equipment required to improve the efficiency of rescues, such as battery-operated rather than plug-in tools, Captain Cartledge said the brigade outgrew the Transit some time ago.
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Utilising the best equipment to enhance rescue capability, it means there is an ever growing list of items to cart to the array of rescues.
"The equipment is always changing and we need to keep up-to-date with it as it comes out, so we are forever changing the equipment around on trucks to make the job easier," Captain Cartledge said.
The equipment is always changing and we need to keep up-to-date with it as it comes out, so we are forever changing the equipment around on trucks to make the job easier- Mark Cartledge
"It not only makes our job easier but it also makes the rescue more timely for the patient."
To transport all of this equipment it was decided a small truck would be a beneficial addition to the fleet, though it took years of fundraising to be able to afford it.
Fundraising for modern equipment and technology is an ongoing process for the volunteer brigade, but during the last 13 years the main focus has been on raising funds towards the purchase of the new rescue support vehicle.
The main fundraiser for the year is the brigade's Christmas raffle, though unfortunately that has not been hosted for the past few years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It has been a bit of a knock to our fundraising during the last few years," Captain Cartledge explained.
Yet fire equipment maintenance activities, which involve firefighters servicing the likes of fire extinguishers and hoses for other brigades, have continued.
All profits made from these activities, conducted at shops and factories, are injected back into the brigade and have helped to boost funding obtained in 2019 through the state government's Volunteer Emergency Service Equipment Program to purchase the vehicle.
While its arrival has been delayed by the pandemic and it is currently being given the final safety check by mechanics, Captain Cartledge said it was expected to hit the road within the fortnight.
The addition of the "safer and more modern" support vehicle means the members of the brigade will be safer on the road, while its rescue capacity will effectively be doubled.
"We can put additional equipment on it to help our crews," he said. "It is going to be similar to having a second road rescue vehicle."
It means that if the main road rescue unit is committed to a job, the rescue support vehicle can respond and begin working at the scene until the heavy rescue unit arrives.
"It will give us the flexibility and capability to undertake multiple rescue jobs at the same time, or to take on bigger jobs," he said.
"So if we get called to a rescue at Beaufort and another rescue in Ballarat, we now have that second vehicle to be able to respond."
The vehicle, which can seat five people, is recognised as a rescue support vehicle at a state level and is only one of two such CFA vehicles in the state.
A much bigger vehicle than what the brigade has been using up until now, it will be able to transport stabilisation equipment to support the main rescue truck - including the heavy vehicle rescue platform, similar to a ladder, which is used to perform rescues involving trains, buses, trucks and cars.
The new truck has some yet-to-be-filled storage areas so will allow the brigade to grow into it in years to come.
While it will be ready to hit the roads before Christmas, ideally Captain Cartledge would prefer it to remain parked in the shed.
"Leading into Christmas, the ideal thing is for the truck to sit in the station and not be used because that means nobody is stuck in a vehicle or requiring rescue.
"With more traffic on the roads, people need to be aware of their surroundings and make the right choices when they drive.
"We want everybody to be safe and sound and around to celebrate Christmas with their loved ones."
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