Insider Guide: Managing fire

Go behind the scenes to discover the unique jobs and passionate people that care for South Australia’s environment.

Tony Pratt – Senior Project Fire Fighter in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region

How would you describe your job to someone at a BBQ?

I am a national parks firey. We do a range of work from preparing for and conducting prescribed burns, to responding to bushfires. When people hear about my job they say ‘wow, I want your job’ – probably because we are out in the parks every day – our offices are the parks.

How did you get into this line of work?

I knew a few of the staff already working with National Parks South Australia and they told me about the then Seasonal Fire Crew roles being advertised. They recommended I apply having had experience working with local council in the works crew and my involvement with the Country Fire Service. I applied back in October 2006 and 10 years later, I am still here.

What do you encounter in a ‘normal’ day on the job?

I lead a crew of four fireys on the gang truck, which is our work vehicle that has all our tools on it. We go out to parks in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges to do physical work to prepare the land for prescribed burns, such as creating tracks for hoselays – these are small tracks that have been cleared of vegetation to allow firefighters to run hoses around sections of a burn without getting snagged.

We also create fuel breaks and rake around significant trees with hollows to protect them.  Doing this sort of work ensures that the burn can be carried out safely and successfully.

We also do a lot of fire prevention work in our parks, which involves reducing high fuel loads within a certain distance from buildings that are adjacent to or in our parks – similar to what ordinary landholders do to protect their properties.

And during summer when our pagers go off, we respond immediately to help fight bushfires. For us, this generally means we will work directly on the fire’s edge.

What are your insider tips about the work you do?

The two insider tips I have for the work I do are:

  1. Having and maintaining skills in operating a chainsaw and other machinery
  2. Keeping physically fit – this is very important as we are constantly out in parks hiking while carrying our tools around to remote areas to do our work.

My insider tip for people wanting the most up-to-date information on prescribed burns is to sign up to our stay informed newsletter or follow @SADEWNR on Twitter.

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