Firefighters host emergency service friends from down under

Cleckheaton Fire Station recently hosted a member of the Tasmanian State Emergency Service (SES) in a visit which highlighted the different challenges faced by blue light services in West Yorkshire compared to Australia.

Pat McBride, 54, dropped by at the Hightown Road station, which is a base for the Technical Rescue Team and Urban Search and Rescue (USAR), during a visit to see wife’s relatives, who live in Gomersal.

He also got the chance to visit Fairweather Green Fire Station.

Pat has spent four years in the Tasmanian SES, which provides a volunteer response capacity in support of the Tasmanian Fire Service.

On call 24/7, he is based just outside of Launceston in the north of Tasmania, and attends road crashes and searches for missing people.

Pat said: “What’s very different to the situation here [in West Yorkshire] is that my area is 700 square kilometers (km). An average call-out we do an 80km round trip. It can take 20 minutes to get to an incident but it can’t be helped.

“We are called out by the Tasmanian Fire Service who have one crash unit and eight fire brigades in West Tamar region.”

Pat, who is retired but used to work in security, volunteered to serve the community and wanted to do something exciting.  

Although he uses a four wheel drive, Pat’s patch includes national parks and remote areas and he admitted the dirt roads “can be hairy”.

There’s also a threat from animals he has to bear in mind.

“With our crashes we have a lot of embankments so we have to do vertical rescue.

“We always look for hazards at the scene and snakes can be in long grass.

“But we just scare them away if you see them. In Tasmania there’s only three snakes and all three are venomous – the Red Black Belly, the Copperhead and the Tiger Snake,” he said.

Pat said that last year the SES attended 58 call-outs and three fatal road crashes in the West Tamar region.

Before qualifying as a volunteer, he had to complete two years’ training and which is an ongoing part of the role.

He said the local and state Government provides the equipment and vehicles and the SES provides the training.

The Government provides full-time firefighters in major cities while the SES provides support for rural areas.

As a thank you Pat presented a framed picture and plaque to crews and Kirklees District Commander Chris Kirby.

DC Chris Kirby said: “It is always interesting to discover the challenges faced by different emergency services across the world and to see how their techniques differ from ours.

“We are pleased Pat enjoyed his visit and hopefully we have been able to share some information about how we work in West Yorkshire.”