Four of the Ballarat region's volunteer fire brigades will soon receive new tankers as part of the first stage of a rollout to provide brigades with upgraded state-of-the-art firefighting vehicles.
Fifty new dual-cab tankers, including 48 heavy tankers and two light tankers, will replace single-cab tankers to allow a full Country Fire Authority crew to sit within the vehicle's cabin.
Among the first 20 stations to receive the tankers by mid-2022 are Buninyong, Ballan, Creswick and Beaufort.
At Buninyong, the new heavy tanker will replace the brigade's existing 16-year-old truck.
The brigade, which operates in a declared high-risk urban interface zone, has about 60 members across Buninyong and Mount Helen.
Surrounded by bush, grass and pine plantation, Buninyong-Mount Helen Fire Brigade firefighters are currently averaging about 180 calls each year but with climate change and a slowly increasing population, this is expected to continue to rise.
"The tankers are primarily designed for going into those environments and fighting those types of fires so that's why it's a welcome upgrade for us and something we will put to good use," captain, James Witham, said.
With the existing truck to be cascaded to another brigade in need of a safer truck, the new tanker will join the brigade's existing appliances - a pumper to fight structure fires and a second smaller tanker based at the Mount Helen fire station.
Captain Witham, a CFA volunteer of 19 years, said the new tanker would provide a long list of benefits for both the brigade and the service it could provide to the community.
"It will be both safer for us and be more capable of protecting life and property," he said.
The heavy tankers, which can comfortably seat five people, have more engine power, 4x4 capability and automatic transmission.
Captain Witham said these features would be particularly beneficial to the brigade, which operates in an area with lots of steep hills so would help them to reach fires more easily in the often challenging terrain.
Describing the new tankers as like "a big toolbox" as they have much more room to store the brigade's ever-growing kit of equipment, they also feature a bigger water tank (4000-litres) and have a higher pumping capacity.
Safety features include crew/vehicle roll over and burn-over protection, in addition to electronic water monitors and in-cabin pump controls.
"We won't need to get out of the truck to start up the water cannon and start attacking a fire. We can drive along and attack the firewall when moving," he added.
We won't need to get out of the truck to start up the water cannon and start attacking a fire. We can drive along and attack the firewall when moving- James Witham
The tankers are also fitted with tank level lights so firefighters can see how much water is left in the truck while operating the hose, even if some distance away.
The tankers also emit less diesel emissions, making them both more environmentally friendly but also safer for the health of firefighters.
It is an exciting time for the brigade, with the Buninyong members planning to move into a newly built fire station in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, other stations set to receive the new tankers include Inglewood, Shoreham, Dunkeld, Mansfield, Gisborne, Poowong, Penshurst, Wangaratta, Caroline Springs, Hastings, Noorat, Seymour, Junortoun, Moorooduc, Wallan and Irymple.
The manufacturing of the 48 heavy tankers began in September last year at Sunshine North, with the final vehicles expected to be completed by September 2023.
Construction of the two light tankers will commence at a later date, according to the CFA.
The new vehicles were funded through the Victorian Government's $126m CFA Capability Funding package, announced in June 2020.
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