What can emergency service agencies do when responding to bushfires?

Focus statement

Students research the technologies and different methods currently used for fighting fires in bushfire emergencies.

Key message

Students develop an understanding of the range of methods used in responding to bushfires and appreciate the role of both technology and emergency service personnel in managing bushfire emergencies.


In Victoria, the CFA and the DSE are on the front-line of bushfire response. How do these service agencies tackle the challenge of controlling and putting out bushfires?

In discussion, ask students to list and describe the bushfire fighting methods and technologies with which they are familiar.

To examine bushfire firefighting methods, have students view the CFA video clip Woodend bushfire 22/01/09 and study the DSE's account of a fire suppression scenario and bushfire photo gallery. As students review these resources, they should note the following:

  • the types of physical equipment used and discussed
  • the different types of technology used to suppress fire
  • the various tactics used to suppress fire in different scenarios
  • the personnel involved in firefighting
  • the particular terminology used to describe firefighting (eg control line, contained, backburning).

Give each student a copy of the Methods of fighting bushfires table. In small groups, have students discuss the list of appliances and tools as well as where and how each is used. Have students make notes in each column.

As a starting point, students could explore some of the following questions.

  • Which part of the Fire Triangle does this firefighting method address? Explain how this works.
  • What are the conditions under which this method will work most effectively?
  • What are the limitations to this method of firefighting?
  • What are the risks and dangers for the operators using this method of firefighting?
  • Who is able to use this particular appliance or tool? Do they require special training?

Following these activities, have students complete the Fighting bushfires quiz.

As an extension activity, small groups of students could research the science behind and uses of the following technologies in firefighting systems:

  • Sentinel, a national bushfire monitoring mapping system
  • aerial mapping of fires using infra-red scanners
  • forward looking infra-red (FLIR)
  • aerial water/retardant bombing
  • Erickson S-64F Air-Crane Helitanker.

Finally, have students consider the people at the front-line of bushfire firefighting, the professionals and volunteers who commit themselves to responding to bushfire emergencies. The majority of people involved in the CFA organisation, 97.5 per cent, are volunteers. There are just over 35 000 trained volunteer firefighters in the CFA, including some 3000 junior volunteers aged 11 to 15 years.

To find out more about volunteers in the CFA including their roles, training and experiences, students should explore the Volunteer & careers section of the CFA website.