Bushfire

CFS deliver much-needed firefighter training to APY Lands communities

CFS staff and volunteer trainers have travelled 1,600km – the equivalent of driving Adelaide to Melbourne and back – to teach basic firefighting skills to people in the remote communities of the State’s far-north.

Photo: For illustration purposes only

CFS staff and volunteer trainers have this month undertaken a 1,600km round-trip journey – the equivalent of driving Adelaide to Melbourne and back – to teach basic firefighting skills to people in the remote communities of the State’s far-north.

The SA Country Fire Service (CFS) has a long-standing history in rural and remote South Australia, including in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands. Due to the transient communities of the APY Lands, this basic firefighter training happens more frequently than anywhere else in the State.

Regional Officer Outback Areas, Peter Ikonomopoulos, whose role was created to achieve a greater level of fire safety for outback communities in the pastoral regions of South Australia, said the training is vital.

“It’s amazing working with these communities and seeing how we can incorporate different cultural practices into our training”, he said.

During May of this year, the Outback Rural Team (ORT) conducted three Basic Firefighting Trainings across the APY Lands.

“This year we saw the ORT train 24 new brigade members from communities of Ernabella/Pukatja, Pipalyatjara, Kalka, Amata and Mimili. The newly trained members will now be able to provide support to their home brigades across the APY Lands,” he said.

Trucks and equipment are housed in appropriate community facilities instead of in dedicated stations, and whilst callouts are few and far between, the threat of bushfire is ever-present, particularly due to the increased growth of buffel grass, which is known to burn extremely hot and erratically.

Between 2017 to 2019, the APY Lands were ravaged by large scale bushfires that threatened several communities and homelands in the region.

Mr Ikonomopoulos said CFS staff and volunteer trainers travel upwards of 800kms from Port Augusta to deliver the much-needed training.

“The challenge of providing adequate firefighting support to communities in the APY Lands stems from several factors including remoteness, limited effective communications, and difficulty in readily understanding cultural and community needs.”

“However, these challenges have not stopped the agency from ensuring the locals can protect the lands they call home,” said Mr Ikonomopoulos.

The CFS first established a presence in the APY Lands in 1987, with the opening of the Mintabie Brigade. Whilst this brigade has since closed due to the closure of the town, the CFS currently has five gazetted brigades across the APY Lands:

– Pukatja (Ernabella)
– Mimili
– Pip-Kalka (Pipalyatjara & Kalka)
– Kaltjiti (Fregon)
– Amata

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