All the latest news and views from the CPSU team
CPSU Members do their bit
IT’S FRIDAY January 18. Day 15 of the bushfires in southern Tasmania. At Cambridge, where the Incident Management Team (IMT) is working, the car park is full. Inside Tasmania Fire Service workers, Parks & Wildlife, Forestry Tasmania, CFA and DSE employees and volunteers go about their tasks steadily and quietly, looking up to smile and nod.
In an odd twist, many carry around balloon animals, made by a volunteer firefighter in spare minutes to brighten spirits – the rest of the time he’s on logistics helping to source whatever is needed. Here, everyone has their place. Each role is important in the massive task of dealing with the serious bushfire situation.
It’s here we catch up with CPSU Member Linda Lacy (pictured at top, left) and Delegate Kelly Marriott (right), who are on the IMT. Both are normally based at Tasmania Fire Service Headquarters in Hobart.
Linda: On the second of January when I first came back to work after Christmas holidays I was asked to be on an IMT the following day as they were planning a ‘hot day response’. There was going to be a total fire ban and we would be ready if there were any problems.
We had the Lake Repulse fire, then we picked up Forcett, then Buckland.
I was initially asked to do IRMS , the Incident Resource Management System, doing data entry for the trucks and people, helicopters, any kind or resources that are used. I was immediately asked to take notes at the first meeting, that plus answering calls, delivering messages, entering data and trying to transcribe. I’m still transcribing notes from those first few days – I’m up to number 18 –there are a lot of planning meetings.
On the IMT, days are long. Much longer than an ordinary work shift. Things change fast and the IMT adapts quickly as fire situations arise, develop and change.
Linda: In the first few days you’re basically there for as long as people need you, doing whatever needs to be done. We were the only admin support for the first few days.
I got home at 10.45 on the first night, the long days continued on until Monday, then we received some more assistance.
On the Friday when the fires were at their worst, we heard that some of our firefighters were stranded at the Peninsula and couldn’t get out. We had one firefighter defending his own home; another who lost his home and one who lost his car.
There comes a point when the fatigue really hits you. You may not want to say anything because you’re so dedicated to the job at hand. You forget what day of the week it is, let alone what time it is. But then you think “hey, I’m not out there fighting those fires, how do they do it? They are incredible”. You need to be observant and look out for each other, it’s wise to let someone know if you think somebody’s looking really tired.
Kelly: The concept of time is pretty much thrown out the window, you look at the time and say “it’s 5 o’clock but it feels like I just got here” because you’re constantly on the go, and there’s always something happening. We have our crazy moments where we eat chocolate and scream a little bit, but for the majority of time we’re in work mode.
Of course, life doesn’t stop when the work is over for the day – IMT members go home to families – husbands, wives, children, and chores.
Kelly: Families play a really important role, just by being supportive and understanding the huge amount of work and the hours people are putting in and stress that they’re under. Despite all this, it’s nice to be a part of it all – you wouldn’t change it.
Linda: Kelly goes home to her family and has to make sure they’re organised for tomorrow. I’m really lucky; I go home to a husband who’s already had his tea – although it’s likely to be something odd as he doesn’t normally cook. He’s done the washing, so I’ve got something clean to wear next day, plus he’s ironed and the house is spotless. It’s easy for me, I think my husband believes I’m single-handedly fighting the fires. I don’t think it is that easy for everyone else though.
Every person on the IMT has a job to do; each of these fit together and allow the team to work towards a common goal.
Kelly: We’ve also got volunteers with some kind of admin background, and they come in to volunteer their services. There are so many people in the mix – it’s amazing how people come together and work as a team.
It’s a privilege to be part of the IMT, you’ve been selected to assist. It is very meaningful – you feel like you’re helping in some way and it’s good to be involved in something like this, even though it’s part of our core business we only get to do it for a couple of months a year and the rest is about prevention.
Linda: Don’t think you can’t do anything to help, come down and help with photocopying, filing, anything – it doesn’t matter everyone is doing their bit. There are a lot of people who think they can’t do it, so they don’t volunteer. But there’s always something you can do to help.
It’s an incredible team. You bond with people you don’t normally work with or don’t even know. I’ve never worked with Kelly and I’ve been at the fire service for 20 years this year. You get to know each other in a different way. When you’re working with someone for almost 12 hours each day you get to see a different side of them – it’s really nice. You get a Parks person come along and put their hand on your shoulder and say “how are you doing, are you coping?”
It makes you feel proud to be part of it, and to think you’ve achieved something, even something as small as recording people’s hours or taking notes at a meeting. It’s all important to relieve their stress and just make things tick along.
And of course, those firies are absolutely incredible, we’ve had them come down from all around the state, as well as from Victoria. Many of us had some kind of contact with Peter Cramer, the DSE firefighter from Victoria, who died. It was very sad the team was going home without a team member.
The IMT sees a range of agencies work together towards the same goal, the Tasmania Fire Service, Parks & Wildlife Service, Forestry Tasmania, Tasmania Police, Ambulance Tasmania, SES and planners, the fabulous EM GIS (DPIPWE) mappers, and firefighters from interstate.
On Friday, day 15, the fires are being downscaled but the huge task of the clean-up is still ahead – a job that’s likely to take months.
Both Kelly and Linda agreed the last 15 days were a rollercoaster – plenty of ups, downs and turns.
Both are two of the many CPSU Members and State Servants who’ve worked or volunteered during and after the fires. Without each of these people doing their part, things could’ve been a lot worse. People from the Tasmania Fire Service, Parks & Wildlife Service, Forestry Tasmania, Tasmania Police, Ambulance Tasmania, State Emergency Service, DPIPWE and many, many more. Agencies that contributed people, time and resources and created a backbone to support those at the fire front in one way or another.
The CPSU thanks everyone who contributed to the effort in the wake of these fires.
**Ironically, while Linda was busy working at the IMT, her husband’s place of employment burnt down in the Bathurst Street fire on Saturday 19th January.