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Fighting fit for fire season

DPaW research officer Meg Porter leads a group doing the fire fitness pack test at Matilda Bay in Crawley
DPaW research officer Meg Porter leads a group doing the fire fitness pack test at Matilda Bay in Crawley DPaW

Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) staff are gearing up for the coming bushfire season by strapping on heavy backpacks and hitting the streets this month to test their fitness for the summer ahead.

DPaW regional fire operations officer Bradley Reynolds said fire-related duties were often physically demanding and it was vital that staff involved in fire were healthy and in top shape.

“People near Perth’s DPaW offices in Crawley and Kensington may have noticed groups of walkers marching quickly around the area and wearing strange, black vests,” he said.

“They would have been taking part in the annual fire fitness assessment by doing what we call the ‘pack test’, which involves walking with a weighted vest carrying 11.3kg over a distance of 3.22km within 30 minutes.

“Those involved in more arduous tasks during fire season must pass a ‘walk and functional assessment’, consisting of a 4.8km walk within 45 minutes plus a functional assessment, which examines aspects of strength, coordination and flexibility.

“The ‘pack test’ and ‘walk and functional assessment’ are designed for staff who need to work directly on the fire ground but we also test those involved in support roles during a bushfire, who don’t need to get as close to the action, with a 1.6km walk to be completed within 16 minutes.”

DPaW Fire Management Services Branch Manager Murray Carter said the fitness training was an important component of pre-bushfire season groundwork.

“Fire fitness assessments and the training run by the department in the months leading up to them are essential for supporting our fire management capabilities and for giving our staff the confidence to do their important work for the people of WA,” he said.

“The required medical appraisals that are carried out alongside fitness tests also allow us to identify any health issues that may affect an employee’s ability to properly complete fire-related duties and lower their risk of harm.

“As part of other preparations for the bushfire season, DPaW has been conducting prescribed burns across the south-west of the State throughout autumn and winter and will soon begin the annual spring burning program, which involves using fire under mild weather conditions.

“Prescribed burning is the primary tool available to DPaW to control the build up of flammable fuel to mitigate the severity of bushfires.”

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Media contact: DPaW Media 9219 9999