Owen Parker is the Workshop/Cache Supervisor at Forest and Fire Management Victoria’s logistics unit in Altona North.
The logistics unit warehouse and workshop are home to the department's emergency fire preparedness equipment and supplies.
Everything is organised so that it can be transported to wherever it is required with minimal notice.
In one of the warehouses, dry firefighting kits – including rakehoes, chainsaws, drip torches, axes, and eskies – are packed and ready for international or interstate firefighter crews to use as soon as they arrive in Victoria.
You’ll also find many shipping containers that aren't your traditional containers – they’ve been retrofitted to transform into base camp facilities. The containers come fully prepared with firefighting equipment, kitchens, laundry, and bathroom facilities.
“One kitchen pod can produce up to 1,500 meals per day. One of the biggest base camps we’ve established had 700 people sleeping onsite. Transport contractors are at the ready 24/7 through the fire season to move the specialised containers to base camp sites," Owen said.
The Altona North Logistics site is also home to the innovation workshop. “Some people refer to it as Q’s workshop because we develop, retrofit, and maintain equipment and vehicles to be fit for purpose. In this case, it’s ensuring everything works as effectively and efficiently as possible for our firefighters.”
“An example of this has been designing ute tray slip-ons to carry everything our crews need; this includes designing the steel holders for all the gear and maximising space on the tray.”
“You’re only as good as the team that you work with, and I like the collaborative approach. Often, good ideas are started over the sandwich at lunchtime.”
One thing that Owen and his team are particularly proud of is the “Wildlife Triage Module”.
“I’ve got a real fondness for wildlife, and after the 2019/20 fires, we had a lot to learn from and improve on when a lot of our wildlife was injured, so we teamed up with our biodiversity team and came up with a module that fits onto an existing type of trailer already developed and is in use.”
The triage module has all the supplies needed for vet nurses to respond to wildlife during fires. The module can then be placed onto a trailer and hooked up to the four-wheel drive vehicle within a few minutes.
This is just one of the prototypes that has come out of the workshop.
“These prototypes are important because we’re continuously learning to improve our emergency preparedness. I’m proud that I've been able to contribute to the improvements that give our firefighters and support staff the best chance of success when out responding to fires.”
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