LIONS, elephants and maybe a hippo or two are just some of the hazards a local Rural Fire Service (RFS) fireman will have to contend with as he trains South African men to fight wildfires.
Tamworth RFS Inspector Steve Prior is swapping the North West rounds for Botswana for a couple of weeks as part of a training program in the African nation.
“The areas where they have what they call wildfires is the natural habitat of animals including the water buffalo,” Inspector Prior told The Northern Daily Leader yesterday.
“It’s their big backyard. I guess you call them unique hazards which are there all the time,” he joked.
Steve will be joined by a senior RFS volunteer from Armidale as well as another from the South Coast.
As part of the two week intense training trip for locals, Steve will be based in Maun which is in the central north of the country.
Just nearby is the foothills to some of the world’s best known safari hot spots.
“In one fire season they lost 13 million hectares. We don’t want to let wildfires wipe out their country,” he said.
“So it’s all about protecting their country, their environmental assets, and their economy because they depend on tourism.”
Helping the country to prevent another fire disaster is the name of the game and Steve will take off next week.
But it’s nothing new – it’s his third trip to Botswana for training.
The RFS is in the final stages of their five year partnership with about six deployments of RFS volunteers and staff each year.
“Yeah we do enjoy it immensely,” he said.
And he says this time round it’s all about putting the pieces together and connecting the dots.
“We’ve helped form brigades over there, and so basically we’re going through and working out the best possible system that they can respond to fire incidents,” he said.
“We’ve trained about 3000 people in Botswana. So that will involve getting those people in brigades to respond to fire incidents, predominantly wildfires.
“In the remote villages we’re also training a few to be first-responders, so they’ll be able to do that first attack on the fire until the brigades arrive.”
The RFS was engaged following the intervention of the Botswana High Commissioner to Australia and the foreign government.
The RFS has a world-wide reputation for being the largest volunteer firefighting service as well as being one of the largest emergency training organisations.