The right tools for the biggest job

Josh Murray (left) and Ash Mansell, both aged 23 from Lithgow Rural Fire Service, pose for a photograph at the Lithgow RFS headquarters.

Ready to go to work … Josh Murray and Ash Mansell, both volunteers for the Lithgow Rural Fire Service, in their work gear. Photo: Mick Tsikas

THE uniforms may have changed but the fire threat remains the same.

In days gone by, gum tree branches and overalls were the only line of defence for a raging bushfire. These days, volunteer firefighters are equipped with the best personal protection equipment on offer.

Lithgow Rural Fire Service volunteers Josh Murray, 23, and Ash Mansell, 23, explained that from their Taipan fire boots – oil and chemical resistant, with high ankle support for rough terrain – to their fire helmets, made from the toughest grade of Kevlar and hard plastic, they are ready for any inferno.

Before dawn, in the bush fire country - A group of fire fighters resting wearily on their improvised beaters during a brief respite in their dangerous battle against the burning forest. 16 Jan 1939. NSW.

Back in 1939 … firefighters battling a forest fire with improvished beaters. Photo: Fairfax Photo Archive

Proban chemical compound fire retardant undershirts, pants, leather gloves and similarly treated bright orange wildfire jackets with reflectors are standard issue now for RFS volunteers.

As they fight fires in their 4×4 Village Pumper-Hino Chassis truck, with a 3000 litre galvanised steel water tank, they are also tuned into standard radio, free-to-air VHF for local air base, RFS private mobile radio and truck-to-truck VHF fire ground communication.

Helicopters provide water bombing and all their logistics are co-ordinated via cutting-edge technology at the RFS headquarters in Lidcombe, in Sydney’s west.

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