Fire buster back on the rails
A FIREFIGHTING vehicle that can run on road and rail to support the Southern Downs Steam Railway, could be in operation by the end of the year.
Steam rail trips in the region now must be accompanied by a Rural Fire Service vehicle in case of spot fires.
But the task is becoming a drain on volunteer rural fire brigades and in some places the road is too far from the rail line for the accompanying rural unit to be of any use.
A modified Daihatsu Rocky vehicle is awaiting certification at the SDSR headquarters in the Warwick railway precinct, but owing to government red tape and difficulties in finding a qualified person to certify the vehicle it has been sitting idle.
SDSR spokesman Adam Cole said the group had finally found such a person and was quietly confident they would finally get the job done.
"The vehicle has drop-down rail wheels, a tank and fire hoses and would follow behind the steam trains on their trips," Mr Cole said.
"It is a specialised piece of equipment and there are particular regulations which need to be complied with."
At present three rural fire units work in separate stages to accompany the steamer on trips from Warwick to Wallangarra and Clifton because of the distance and the terrain.
A large fire that broke out at Murrays Bridge several weeks ago on the same day as one of the steam trips meant The Glen, Wildash and Dalveen rural units were unable to get to the 100ha blaze.
Warwick Rural Group officer Michael Welsh said the volunteer service had been more than happy to support the steam trips, but it was time-consuming and costly in terms of fuel.
He said the local brigades fully supported SDSR efforts to have their modified vehicle on the rails.
"Part of the problem is that if a fire was to start on the other side of the line, our units are unable to help anyway," Mr Welsh said.
"It can be a struggle at times to find three volunteers for each unit and it's a long day for them.
"If this vehicle can be made operational we would be happy to provide a volunteer firefighter to accompany the driver.
"We are now into the most risky bushfire season of the year and there is an average of one steam train trip a month, so we need all units to be available."