Firies in training for digital radio’s arrival

Wodonga CFA leading firefighter Matthew Johnson and station officer David Brown with one of the hand-held units capable of broadcasting and receiving the new digital signal. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

Wodonga CFA leading firefighter Matthew Johnson and station officer David Brown with one of the hand-held units capable of broadcasting and receiving the new digital signal. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

DISTRICT 24 firefighters have started training on the updated digital communications network that is expected to be switched on next month.

The new technology puts every fire brigade across the country district on the one radio system, where previously there were eight channels.

CFA district 24 operations officer Mark Owens said the coverage was still in the testing phase.

“So far brigades have coverage where they didn’t have coverage before with the old analogue system,” he said.

“It’s hoped the switch over will take place in mid-July, but that depends on if there are any issues with coverage.”

Many remote brigades still rely on base station operators to relay urgent incident messages.

Soon the $42.9 million state government project will allow brigades to speak from the fire ground with emergency call centre operators at Ballarat.

This reduces the risk of communication failures and improves safety for CFA staff and volunteers.

District 24, which includes Wodonga, Alpine, Indigo, Towong, Falls Creek and Mount Hotham, is among the first to receive digital radio training.

The first part of the training involves operating the radio system and the second involves procedures on how to talk on the radio.

Wodonga firefighters already had radio coverage on their analogue system, but smaller brigades in places like Bright and Myrtleford saw communication go to a command centre manned by a volunteer member.

Under the new system they will talk direct with the Ballarat centre, known as VicFire.

Firefighters will also benefit from clearer radio dispatch coverage, presently available to Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria and brigades in metropolitan Melbourne.

The next phase, to come into effect later this year, will include automatic vehicle location technology.

Each radio unit will be equipped with a GPS tracking system enabling incident managers to track the location of firefighter vehicles.

“Police and ambulances have had this for a while, but we have never had the technology before,” Mr Owens said.

“It can track and monitor our trucks on the fire ground, which is great because of decreased visibility during fires.

“It offers greater safety for our firefighters.”

Recruit Shaun McManamny starts off on a new adventure

New career firefighter Shaun McManamny has started at Wodonga CFA fire station. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

New career firefighter Shaun McManamny has started at Wodonga CFA fire station. Picture: JOHN RUSSELL

Recruit Shaun McManamny starts off on a new adventure

WODONGA’S new firefighter has swapped teaching in the great outdoors for another “adventure”.

Shaun McManamny, 37, once a ski instructor and whitewater rafting guide, started his first day as a career firefighter yesterday.

“Having a job that wasn’t 9 to 5 appealed to me,” he said.

“I wanted adventure, something that would be different every day.”

Originally from Melbourne, Mr McManamny was also keen for a tree change.

He is renting a house in Beechworth where his wife, Tegwyn, will soon move to be with him.

“I am loving the country life,” he said.

“I would love to own a bit of land one day.”

Mr McManamny has come from the CFA college in Fiskville, west of Melbourne, and will now undertake 10 weeks of intensive training at the Wodonga station.

“At the moment I am looking forward to the job because Fiskville is not the real world,” he said.

Wodonga CFA station officer David Brown was pleased to welcome the newest recruit.

“It’s always good as it invigorates the station and gives us new blood,” he said.

The station now has 16 career firefighters.

CFA yesterday posted 21 new career firefighters at brigades throughout Victoria.

Wangaratta has two new recruits including former refrigeration mechanic Michael Cornish, 28, from East Bendigo, and Phillip Leach, 35, a photocopier and printer technician.

Mr Leach, also a CFA volunteer, has family in Wangaratta and plans to commute from Wodonga.

Most of his free time is spent keeping up with his two boys aged 9 and 5 and he is also into anything mechanical — he’s currently building a hot rod.

With family in the CFA, he grew up around the organisation.

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