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Fire and ice

Expeditioners save a mock patient from the flames (Photo: Nisha Harris)
Expeditioners save a mock patient from the flames (Photo: Nisha Harris)

Fire is a constant risk on Australia’s Antarctic stations, with the isolation and arid freezing conditions making firefighting extremely challenging.

The team wintering at Casey research station are undertaking specialist fire training with Tasmania Fire Service in Cambridge.

Casey Station Leader, Chris MacMillian, said people don’t expect fire to be an issue on the frozen continent.

“Antarctica is actually the driest continent on Earth, with most of the precipitation falling in the form of snow or ice crystals, and it can also be very windy with regular blizzards,” Ms MacMillian said.

“Fighting fires under these conditions is challenging, so we get some intense training before we depart for our year on the continent.”

The designated fire team learn the latest firefighting and rescue techniques, as well as the use of breathing apparatus.

All the station buildings are well equipped with fire extinguishers and hydrants, and a dedicated fire vehicle remains on permanent standby.

“We are essentially isolated for seven months of the year, relying on each other for fire and other emergency responses.

“The stations are specially designed with separate buildings, so if fire affects one building others remain functional and if needed can used for shelter.

“There’s also an emergency cache of food, clothing, tents and medical supplies in a separate 20 foot container well away from station.”

Once on station the Fire Team will undertake regular drills to keep their skills honed for their year on the ice.

Source: Australian Government

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