MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL: Fire officer Graham Parker surveys the damage at Cyprus Ridge after fireys spent long hours protecting homes.
MENTAL AND PHYSICAL TOLL: Fire officer Graham Parker surveys the damage at Cyprus Ridge after fireys spent long hours protecting homes. Bianca Hrovat

Greatest threat to fireys as fight enters its 100th hour

EMERGENCY services face a new threat as they continue to work around the clock to contain blazes near Stanthorpe, more than 100 hours after fires first sparked at Amiens.

Fatigue can set in within just eight hours of fire service and is a major contributing factor to the two leading causes of emergency service fatalities: Cardiovascular events and vehicle accidents.

Ballandean fire officer Graham Parker said fatigue management was a matter of life and death when he was coordinating large teams of emergency services.

"It's a very big part of what we do,” Mr Parker said.

"There's lots of physical effort involved and we all dig deep when we need to.

"But you can't get left out there for days on end, because no one wants tired people falling over in the fire and dying.”

Firefighting also takes an enormous mental toll, as crew members constantly manage the safety of others, patrol threatened areas, monitor fire movements and plan around the terrain and the conditions.

Research from Safe Work Australia shows fatigue can lead to poor decision making, reduced skill performance, poor hand-eye coordination and slower reaction times, all of which can increase the risk of injury or accident.

But despite the clear benefits of rest, it can be difficult to persuade passionate crew members to leave once their shifts are up.

"We often send people home against their will,” Mr Parker said.

"That's just the rules and there's no point in burning yourself out on the first day because you didn't get a rest.

"I felt like a bit of a fraud when I didn't go to the fire on Friday but it was important for the service to have local people with local knowledge ready to go on Saturday.”

Firefighters work a maximum of 12-hour shifts, though "in a perfect world” they'd be clocking off after eight hours.

"We're all very, very conscious of the fact that the fire will likely run into days and weeks,” Mr Parker.

"With a big fire like this it's like a well coordinated ballet.

"The logistics are quite incredible.”

Temperatures are expected to warm again into next week, allowing emergency services little reprieve.

"This will keep burning until it rains,” Mr Parker said.

"But at the end of the day it's not just about putting the fire out, it's about getting everyone out with all of their fingers and toes intact.”

As of 10am this morning, the Applethorpe bushfire had been extinguished but fire crews will continue to monitor the area over the coming days.

The bushfire at Ballandean continues to burn within containment lines between Rees Rd and Eukey Rd, with an advice level warning in place.



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