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Jumping Back in Time: 2002 & 2012

As we head towards the end of the year it is timely to look at back at some of the events that occurred in NSW firefighting history 10 and 20 years ago! The team recently shared some stories that sent me down memory lane so it seemed prudent to share them with our loyal blog readers!

Top Stories of 2002

Like many Summers in Australia the year 2002 began with a series of devastating bushfires. From 24 December 2001 until 11 January 2002 a record number of appliances responded to bush and grass fires across the state. Over 4,800 such incidents were attended by NSW Fire Brigade, NSWFB (now Fire and Rescue NSW, FRNSW) personnel with over 100 fires burning simultaneously on numerous occasions.

One positive aspect of these fires compared to other difficult years, such as the destructive fires of 1994, is that though the fires were thought to be more intense the loss of property and life was lower thanks to the coordinated efforts of fire crews and the work taken ahead of time to prepare bushfire prone areas. The total area destroyed by fire was 753,314 ha with the loss of 109 homes compared to 800,000 ha and 185 homes in 1994. The bushfire season is what dominates the pages of Fire News in 2002 as can be seen by the cover of the Autumn 2002 edition (pictured here).

Do you remember Elvis? This helicopter is what I remember from the 2001/2002 bushfires. Growing up in a bushfire area I saw Elvis overhead many times and as kids we'd wave as the chopper flew over, relieved that the "hero" had arrived.

Elvis got his name while serving with the US National Guard in Memphis, Tennessee - the home of Elvis Presley. During the bushfire season Elvis was leased and became the poster child of the bushfire effort. With a capability to dump 9,500 litres of water in just three seconds and a speed of 104 knots Elvis played a key role in stopping the spread of the bushfires.

"Elvis" the Erickson S-64 Aircrane Helitanker (2002)

In other NSWFB news the ‘Ecopod’ Fire Station was introduced. Incorporating a host of environmentally sound measures, the station’s innovative design was the NSWFB’s first response to the need for better environmental management when building new facilities. The Ecopod incorporated environmentally sustainable strategies such as solar energy, natural ventilation and wastewater recycling.

The Ecopod’s engine bays were less prone to build up of fumes because of the improved ventilation system that removed fumes along controlled pathways, and a special circular approach meant that appliance access was greatly improved. Using new green technology, Ecopod was designed to use up to 70 per cent less energy than a conventional fire station of similar size.

From the outside, Ecopod’s radical design was a clear departure from traditional fire station design. The exterior was a structurally efficient steel ‘cocoon’ that wrapped and protected the functional areas within. It used the concept of an outer and an inner skin, so that the internal work areas were separated from the roof by a large void which acted as a climatic buffer zone from extremes of heat and cold. Eco pod was designed by environmental architect Simeon Glasson.

The first Ecopod station was opened on 17 June 2002 by Premier Bob Carr in East Maitland.

What Was Happening A Decade Ago in 2012?

There is a photo that does the rounds on the internet and every few months the Museum gets tagged in a meme created from the image. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Did you know that the photo was taken over a decade ago? The Fire and Rescue NSW Sydney Communication Centre received an Automatic Fire Alarm to the Harvey Norman retail centre, Jamisontown, at 3:41p.m. on Friday 24th February, 2012. The centre contained warehouses, offices, retail areas and showrooms, and stood at about 16,300m2 in size.

The Museum dedicated an entire blog to this incident earlier in the year. You can read it by following this link:

Another blog the team shared earlier this year that comes from 2012 is FRNSW’s USAR team received their United Nations classification.

USAR is the Urban Search and Rescue task force, consisting of a variety of specialists in a multi-agency approach which combines the expertise and the personnel of Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Police, NSW SES, NSW Ambulance, Engineers from NSW Public Works, AusAid and Emergency Management Australia.

Consisting of 72 individuals, predominantly made up of FRNSW members, the task force is led by a senior officer responsible for all facets of the task force’s operations. From there it is broken down into 4 operational teams to be able to sustain 24-hour operation over the course of deployment.

USAR has its origins back in 1998 and you can read all about the teams history by clicking this link and reading the teams blog:

To finish this blog I want to share one incident that I personally remember vividly from 2012 and that had its 10-year anniversary just recently on 27 November.

This was the crane fire on Broadway in Sydney. At the time of the fire, I was on a bus driving up Broadway heading for Sydney University, and I was stunned by what I saw. When I saw this story pop up on the Museum’s socials the memory came flooding back to me as everyone on the bus seemed to rush to the right side in amazement. I am shocked the bus didn’t top over and that there were no serious accidents as everyone watched on stunned.

If you missed it, here is the story as told by the Museum’s heritage team:

At approximately 9:40am on 27 November 2012, inner city fire crews were called to a crane on fire in Broadway.

The engine compartment had caught alight and fire crews assisted in the evacuation of the building site and the surrounding areas creating a 1km exclusion zone. The fire disrupted the integrity of the crane but thankfully the crane operator had moved the arm away from the streets. It eventually collapsed unable to sustain itself although thankfully leaving no one harmed.

The incident involving urban rescue and salvage mixed in with firefighting at extreme heights gave firefighters an unusual challenge to overcome, however, they did so proficiently.

What stores do you remember from 2002 and 2012? Let us know and they could be featured in our blog pages!

-Story by Belinda McMartin, Museum of Fire CEO with assistance from the Heritage Team


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