WICEN Tasmania (South), assisted by other trained southern region radio amateurs, is providing 24 hour support for firefighting activities as several fires continue to burn.
At least 100 properties have been destroyed and thousands of people are left stranded. Towns on the devastated Tasman Peninsula in the state’s south-east are cut off and only accessible via sea.
WICEN Tasmania (South) Secretary, Roger Nichols VK7ARN said teams of two radio operators for the Incident Management Team based at Tasmania Fire Service Cambridge, are concerned primarily with two of the major fires.
“These are fires on the Tasman Peninsula and in the Derwent Valley. Both of these and several others are still fast moving at this time,” said Roger VK7ARN.
Significant property loss has already occurred, especially in the Tasman Peninsula fire. There are 60 fire units in the field on these fires, being almost half of 130 currently actively deployed across Tasmania.
He said, “Radio operator needs and deployments are under constant review as the situation develops. The Tasmania Fire Service 80MHz network is being used, involving standard procedures and Prowords.”
Roger VK7ARN said 18 radio amateurs recently attended an introductory training course run by the Tasmania Fire Service in preparation for such an eventuality, though the size and scope of the current operations is way beyond previous activations.
He said radio operator teams normally include at least one operator with previous fire experience and training. It may be that more amateur resources will be required, at least to assist with log keeping and message recording. These may include deployments to other control points closer to the firegrounds.
Overnight a massive sea rescue operation moved more than 1,000 people trapped by the Tasman Peninsula fires to safety in Hobart, 50 kilometres away. Thousands of people, including 700 tourists at historic Port Arthur, remain stranded.
(Jim Linton VK3PC, Chair of the IARU Region 3, Disaster Communications Committee)