Industry Insights

All Bases Covered: SA Country Fire Service

The vast expanse of Australia’s landscape consists of hot, dry stretches of sun-baked paddocks and tinder dry bush, making bushfires and grassfires an almost everyday event during the summer months.

This makes fire emergencies an unfortunate reality. Thankfully, when it comes to emergencies, there is no situation too confronting for the brave band of volunteers at the South Australian Country Fire Service (SA CFS).

Sustained by an enthusiastic volunteer network, the all-hazards SA CFS agency comprises a cohort of trained volunteers and cadets. The team safeguards both the semi-urban and rural communities of South Australia from all kinds of emergencies, acting as an immediate responder to incidents beyond just fire, such as road crash rescues and hazardous material spills.

Many incidents attended are often vehicle-related emergencies. But whatever the nature of the case, SA CFS volunteers regularly put their lives on the line to save others.

Lee Watson, Director Operational Infrastructure & Logistics at SA CFS, explains that the training program is particularly rigorous due to the kind of work they undertake.

“We clearly identify the risks based on several factors such as history, whether it’s an urban or rural area, and the type of hazards.

“We then provide adequate resources and training to counter these risks.”

Spread over six regions in South Australia, with their headquarters in Adelaide, SA CFS heavily relies on an Isuzu fleet to support their operations. With over 700 Isuzu trucks in their fleet, they form a powerful, indispensable line-up, applied across a range of services and to assist with expediting operations.

The broad-ranging Isuzu units supporting the SA CFS fleet are fitted with custom-built bodies, enabling them to safely carry water and firefighting equipment while protecting fire crews at all times.

They include older and newer 4×4 tankers from the N Series range, such as the go anywhere NPS 75-155 4×4, capable of carrying up to 1,500 litres of water.

Also in the mix are medium- and heavy-duty tankers from the F Series range (FSS 110-210 4×4 and FTS 139-260 4×4 Crew), capable of carrying up to 4,000 litres of water. Rounding out the fleet are bulk water carriers including the FVZ 260-300 variant, capable of carting about 11,000 litres of water.

The Isuzu CXY 415 prime mover tows bulk water trailers with a capacity of up to 26,000 litres; and the fleet also includes medium-duty pumpers like the popular FTR 150-260, for urban and grass firefighting tasks.

Lee explains that safety and the reliability of the vehicle is critical, especially in view of the urgent nature of their operations—and that’s why Isuzu is a key part of their fleet.

“Typically, we operate in environments trucks were never designed for—extremely hot conditions.

“We’ve however found that the Isuzu trucks performed extremely well in these extreme conditions. We’ve also found that they are a reliable for our vast array of applications,” he said.

The latest addition to SA CFS’s emergency fleet squad is the Isuzu CXY 415 used as a bulk water carrier with a 26,000-litre capacity, performing the vital role of providing firefighting vehicles with water top-ups.

These trucks are especially crucial during emergencies because their large carrying capacity reduces refill turnaround times, allowing fire vehicles to stay engaged with the fire front for longer.

The SA CFS is very pleased with their new bulk water carrier and the team is already enjoying the heavy truck’s great driveability.

Lee says, “It’s the first time we’ve used a bulk water carrier on Isuzu’s Giga platform.

“The Giga additions to our fleet has enabled greater flexibility in vehicle driveability, particularly as we need to be able to navigate in and around urbanised areas in Adelaide, and across hilly terrain, as well as in the mid-north of the state.

“Our Giga is equipped with a floating collar dam, a portable dam setup that leaves a static water supply on site that can be used by vehicles to draw water from, allowing the truck to go away for a refill.”

The Giga CXY 240-460 and CXZ 240-420 6×4 both have a 12-speed automated manual transmission and airbag or leaf rear suspension, ensuring comfort and stability across uneven terrain.

The Giga range has quickly become the bulk carrier of choice for the SA CFS.

“Our previous trucks were not entirely suitable for some of the hilly terrains we find ourselves in, but as soon as we replaced them with Gigas, the feedback has been extremely positive,” he said.

“The Gigas are far superior trucks with great driveability and good brake controls, especially in tough terrains, which is a big bonus for us.”

And this rings true not just for the Giga range, but also with other recent additions to the fleet, such as the acquisition of a number of FTR 150-260 Crew models, bolstering the SA CFS’s urban firefighting capacity.

The SA CFS has consistently sought the support of Isuzu Australia Limited (IAL) and their principal supplier—North East Isuzu in South Australia—to assist with product development that ensure their fleet is in the best working condition.

Lee reflects, “Both North East Isuzu and IAL have provided constant support over the lifespan of each vehicle and that’s important to us.

“Because, unlike many other fleet operators with regular vehicle turnover, we expect to hang on to our vehicles for at least 20 years.”

Every single Isuzu vehicle the SA CFS has acquired is the result of meticulous research and vehicle safety is of critical importance.

“We have a great deal of equipment fitted onto the body of the vehicle, because as a fire vehicle there’s a need to protect critical systems like brake lines, fuel lines and other critical componentry from being impacted by fire.

“For crew protection we offer in-cab breathing systems and fire curtains inside all of our vehicles, as well as cabin deluge systems that provide a water curtain over the truck cabin where crew may take refuge in an extreme fire environment,” explains Lee.

There is nothing like a strong line-up of trucks to assist frontline troops in emergencies, and Lee says that acquiring more Isuzu models has been invaluable to the team and their operations.

Lee concludes, “The modern fleet of Isuzu that we now have in the brigades offer advanced technology, making these trucks invaluable assets to our volunteers.

And with the great driveability of the Isuzu trucks, the quality of our emergency response has significantly improved.”