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New bushfire protection for fire-fighters

CSIRO : 22 March, 2000  (New Product)
CSIRO is developing a new system for fire trucks to protect firefighters trapped in bushfires. A multidisciplinary team from CSIRO's Thermal and Fluids Engineering group is behind the new protection system.
'The programme was established after an approach by the NSW Rural Fire Services to establish a joint research project to find a feasible way of protecting fire-fighters and their trucks when they get caught in a bushfire,' says CSIRO Project Leader, Dr Rajam Sankaran.

'Preliminary work at CSIRO laboratories at North Ryde, Sydney has resulted in the building of a fire truck model and the use of water to protect the fire truck and its crew,' he says.

'Weight and space considerations mean any new protection system must utilise existing equipment so that fire-fighting capabilities of trucks and their crews are not compromised'.

CSIRO scientist Mike King says, 'The initial challenge facing us is to prevent heat, mostly radiant heat, from destroying the truck and its fire-fighters. The research has focussed on finding an effective barrier that can be placed between the fire and the truck, and the most obvious is water'.

Mr King says, however, that using water as a barrier has a major drawback because the strong winds that are often generated by bushfires, sometimes in excess of 100 kph, simply blow the water away. This makes the water virtually ineffective.

'The main focus of CSIRO's current research is to identify methods of ensuring the water is delivered to the surface of the vehicle,' he says.

As part of the research, testing is being conducted at T&FE's wind tunnel that can generate wind flows of 75 kph.

The Rural Fire Service has constructed a full size wooden model of a fire-truck cabin for initial measurements and there are plans for test burning a full size real fire-truck in bushland fire conditions.

RFS and CSIRO staff have tested a large variety of water sprays. The water sprays have been mounted on the model and tested for effective water coverage.

Mr King says, 'The project is an unusual scientific challenge, compounded by the limits on the amount of water that can used and the time that the fire-truck can be protected'.

Bushfire scientist Phil Cheney, of CSIRO Forestry, is providing valuable data on the sort of fire conditions that can be expected in typical Australian bushfires.

This will establish the achievable limits for the project because there is probably no single system available that can protect a fire appliance in all conditions.
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