FIREFIGHTERS haven’t just been spending extra time and energy fighting the spate of deliberately lit fires in Wonthaggi – they’re also starting to run out of protective gear.
Wonthaggi Fire Brigade’s Jamie Moresco said several volunteers who battled recent house fires in Broome Crescent and Stewart Street have had to ship their turnout gear off to Geelong for specialist cleaning.
“We have a couple of guys without gear at the moment because they sent their first lot off to be cleaned and the time between fires has overlapped,” he explained.
Lt Moresco said it generally takes five days for gear to be thoroughly cleaned and returned.
WFB volunteers each have two sets of gear in the locker room – but quite a few pegs are currently empty.
The reason cleaning is necessary, Lt Moresco explains, is because volunteers fighting fires in older homes may be exposed to asbestos dust.
Protocol requires firefighters to be hosed down once they exit such a building, while all gear, except breathing apparatus, is immediately taken off and sealed in a large plastic bag.
Other volunteers at the scene of a fire in an older building are also required to wear P2 respirators at all times.
“All gear is bagged and tagged and a special courier takes it from the station for cleaning,” he continued.
“We also break off a piece of asbestos inside the building and drop that into another sample bag, which is then sent to a laboratory to be tested.”
Lt Moresco said discarding gear that was worn in an environment with asbestos isn’t an option, since each individual set of gear is worth around $2500.
Shortage of gear
While he and the rest of the brigade remain focussed on doing their job, Lt Moresco admits the shortage of gear is an inconvenience.
“Those responsible for the fires are putting a strain on volunteers,” he said.
“We’re out there for two hours or more at each fire and now we’re starting to lose equipment as well.”
He assured, however, that the operational response of the brigade is not affected.
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By Gav Ross