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Responding to Hazardous Materials - Fire & Rescue New South Wales

Did you know that Fire and Rescue New South Wales (FRNSW) have a number of specialised capabilities and responsibilities? One such responsibility is attending and handling hazardous materials (HAZMAT), both on land and in inland waterways.

Some HAZMAT incidents FRNSW can respond to include minor spills of hydrocarbons, gas leaks, and emergency decontamination procedures. Every fire station is now equipped and has trained personnel who can respond to HAZMAT incidents, with appropriate equipment and gear to work alongside firefighters on the job. Across the state, FRNSW have four specialist HAZMAT response units operating from Greenacre, Alexandria, Newcastle, and Shellharbour. These units are trained and have capability in detecting toxic industrial waste, volatile substances, and chemical warfare agents.

Aerial photograph taken at the Hazmat Exercise at Alexandria Training College in 2000

No. 9 Station

In 1980, the Breathing Apparatus Unit was moved into a rented premises in Waterloo as it had outgrown its space in the Headquarters building. At this time, it was assigned the number 9 and opened in Waterloo as an operational fire station. Overtime, HAZMAT was added to the name and operational capabilities of the station, and in 1922 steps were undertaken to move BA (breathing apparatus)/HAZMAT to the Chullora site.

The BA-HAZMAT operations moved into a building recently used as the State Operational Support Centre and the building underwent major alterations so it could be used as a specialised fire station. The BA-HAZMAT department operated as any other operational station, with a full complement of rotational firefights and station officers all specifically trained to deal with HAZMAT incidents.

In 1994, a number of other operational sections of the Brigade were housed near the fire station on the Greenacre property. These included the Bushfire Section, which relocated from the closed Rozelle Fire Station, and the Rescue Section, which moved from its previous locations at the Rozelle Fire Station and the Alexandria Training College (by the early 1990s the Brigade was referring to the site as Greenacre, as it is still known today). A number of other operational arms of the Brigade were located at the Greenacre site such as Fire Investigation and Research, and the Community Fire Unit.

Throughout the early 2000s there was a great emphasis upon training staff across the state in HAZMAT procedures and it was throughout this period that the name of No. 9 BA-HAZMAT Station was changed to simply No. 9 HAZMAT when a dedicated BA service centre was established on the Greenacre site. In addition, to increase response times and spread HAZMAT utilities across the most populated parts of the state, a number of stations had received increased HAZMAT capabilities by 2010, thus becoming HAZMAT stations. It was around this time that No. 9 Station was closed and the remaining staff were distributed amongst the other HAZMAT stations.

ME 378 International 1850G HAZMAT

The heavy vehicle HAZMAT appliance is designed to provide support to both state and local authorities should there be a major disaster or emergency. The vehicle is powered by a Perkins Phaser 210hp intercooled turbo diesel engine at 187kW at 2000rpm, with a 6-speed automatic transmission. It has a 200-litre fuel capacity and can transport three firefighters. The cabin is insulated against heat absorption and noise disturbance, which provides greater capacity for communication within the cabin. Radio units, as well as phones, are installed in the cabin and duplicated in the instrument room. The instrument room of the HAZMAT appliance is also airconditioned and insulated to allow specialised operators to perform their duties in a clean, environmentally sound and comfortable space. The appliance was designed to provide power for a computer, fax machine, printer, weather station, electronic white board, refrigerator, monitor and a television, which is in turn powered by a hydraulically driven generator. This appliance was allocated to No. 9 Greenacre in 1999 until it was withdrawn in 2021 to the Museum of Fire.

International 1850G vehicle at Hazmat Exercise at Alexandria Training College in 2000

Since leaving FRNSW and arriving at the Museum, the vehicle pictured above has had a fresh paint job and new decals. You can now see the International 1850G on display in the Museum alongside a new selection of vehicles. We are open 7 days a week 9:30am - 4:30pm!

- Story by the Heritage Manager


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