When you think of the fire brigade, you normally think of firemen out battling a blaze, not the people behind the scenes making sure everything runs perfectly.
During the Gospers Mountain bushfire in 2019, a team of nine Lithgow locals were in charge of knowing exactly where every unit in the Chifley/Lithgow area was, how many people were in each truck and what was happening not just on land, but in the sky.
Since then, Lithgow's RFS Communication's team has doubled with 21 members.
The team, who work out of Silcock Street in Lithgow, have a fully sound proof radio room which is expected to be expanded as new technology is supplied.
Three operators can work in the radio room as someone mans the radio, someone scribes what is being said and another mans the board where they put up the name of the unit and where they are in the area in relation to the fire.
Lithgow RFS Captain Julia Kirwan said they are one of the only units not to have a fire truck.
"We get the same training as the firemen on the truck, so if we ended up in front of a fire with a hose in our hand we would know exactly what to do, we just don't practise with the truck," she said.
Her team's main job is to maintain communication with the teams on the ground.
"We know where they are and who they are with, which was a major issue in the Gospers Mountain fire since we had around 58 trucks out there at all hours and only a team of nine, we were doing 12 hour days before a support team would come on for the night shift," she said.
"It was a challenge that my team exceeded in and deserve to be praised for how hard they worked."
RFS Community Engagement Officer Dennis Limbert explained that the fire crews have to radio in when they leave, give a status update and radio back in when they arrive.
"They've got to tell us information about how many trucks there are, truck sizes, there might be dozers, tankers, helicopters, planes, they just have to keep in touch so we know where they are and with how many people," he said.
Ms Kirwan said it was important to also keep track of how long people have been out there for because they are only allowed to stay out for 12 hours.
"Most want to stay out because they see a need, but for example out at Newnes it had been 12 hours but there was no one to replace them on the ground and we can't take other trucks off other areas so they stayed out for an extra few hours, that isn't the norm, and it's only when it is desperate times," she said.
Soon the way the Lithgow Comms team will keep up to date with information is through computers and a new IT system.
"The whole crew will be trained, doing a two day course, so everyone in the state will be upgraded," she said.
"We would love for younger people who have a love for IT to join us."
The crew is continually busy, with people operating multiple radios being in contact with forestry, national parks, people in the sky, the crews on the ground and with someone supervising everything.
"There are lots of messages being passed around, it never stops, because then you have supporting management, planning, mapping and more," she said.
One of the most important things you can have in the job is local knowledge of the area.
"We had three Canadians in the planning department during Gospers Mountain and they needed to be guided by local knowledge, as well as the out of town crews we had because in a fire setting you are surrounded by smoke, so you aren't going to see or notice road signs so you have to know the area well," Mr Limbert said.
"On ground local information is important, because if you have no water and need creeks and dams to fill up you need to know where to go and the Lithgow/Chifley area is huge, so we share resources, and from Eastern Side at Dargan to Fitzgerald Valley that's two hours so it is a massive area we look after," Ms Kirwan said.
Brigade President & Senior Deputy Captain Brian Quick, who had spent 15 years on the fire field before moving into the communication's team, said the "comms team" really is a link they rely on in the fire.
"We tell the communications team what's happening, because fire doesn't read books, fire does what fire wants to do and and we talk to the communications team and tell them where it is heading because what you get on the Bureau of Meteorology might not be up to date," he said.
Mr Limbert said they are working off what the Bureau is giving them, but the fire could be going in the opposite direction, so once they get notified they can tell people higher up who then can change their plan accordingly.
Ms Kirwan said there are a lot of isolated people in the area and the brigades aren't massive.
"We rely on those small populations for a brigade and they tend to have 8 people per brigade," she said.
The communications team is also in charge of organising certain brigades to attend not only fires but car accidents as well.
"A team that has gone out might radio in and say they need four more vehicles so we will then organise which teams are suitable to go and assist," she said.
"Fire control is important so Monday to Friday during the day an operations officer mans the radio, then if it gets bigger they get onto me and I contact our volunteers."
Since the Gospers Mountain fire the brigade has expanded from a team of nine with two reserves and one member who couldn't participate to a team of 21.
"Everyone is fully trained to understand the procedures, but always looking for more recruits because as they grow our base, we grow," Ms Kirwan said.
"People can come to the local brigade if they don't want to fight fire but want to help, there are communications engagements, catering, rostering, there is something for everyone.
"We have members all across a wide spectrum from over 70s to young, and we accommodate what they want to do."
Mr Quick said he is someone who said no to using the computers because they "don't get along".
"I also recognise that it isn't my strong suit and if I type in the wrong thing or the wrong information goes to the head communications people that could be a big issue, so it is important to get the right information and process it correctly," he said.
Lithgow has also received an upgraded OCV (Operational Command Vehicle) that has been transferred from Bathurst.
This is a mobile radio command post that will be used at the staging area to print out maps, gain vital information that the crew can pass on to Duty Officers and Captains at the site rather then have the officers trek into Lithgow for the information and back out to the site again.
"When they do that, sometimes by the time they get to the site the information is out of date, so being able to be at the staging area is a huge benefit," Ms Kirwan said.
"The previous vehicle worked well but was 21 years-old and so it was time for an upgrade."
If you are interested in joining the communications team feel free to call the station or go online and register your interest.
"I'll then be given your number and can give you a call to discuss it," Ms Kirwan said.
"Our station is a really happy place to be and everyone really gets along, I joined 14 years ago and never thought I would end up as Captain so you never know what can happen."
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