VRA welcomes new truck

Narrandera VRA captain Wayne Heidtmann is looking forward to replacing the ageing squad rescue truck.

Narrandera Volunteer Rescue Squad is set to receive a new medium rigid rescue truck and equipment as part of the largest ever funding announcement to date for the NSW VRA.

Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant committed $18.8 million over four years, in addition to an existing grant of $1.365 million, to upgrade rescue vehicles, equipment, personal protective clothing, training and administrative support.

All squads throughout the state will benefit from new equipment and uniforms for volunteers.

To date, the NSW VRA has been primarily funded through an annual grant of $1.365 million from the NSW Government.

Troy Grant said the funding would deliver 30 new rescue vehicles for regional NSW, and provide standardised equipment for vertical, swift water and general land rescue, as well as communications and training.

“These volunteers often perform rescues under challenging conditions, so we want to do everything we can to ensure they are as safe as possible,’’ he said.

Narrandera VRA captain Wayne Heidtmann welcomed the news, saying the majority of local operating expenses were met by community fundraising and donations.

Mr Heidtmann said squad members were looking forward to a new truck, equipment, protective clothing and training.

The squad’s rescue truck, an Acco 1950, was formerly a police rescue vehicle on the NSW coast, and arrived at Narrandera about 12 years ago.

“It’s getting past its use by date but it still does the job,’’ Mr Heidtmann said.

Each Friday, squad members hold a fundraising barbecue in Narrandera’s main street to keep the vehicles ticking over in fuel, tyres and equipment.

Located on the junction of five major roads, the squad calls on around eight members and is actively looking for new volunteers. Last week they attended two motor vehicle accidents in the dust storm on the same day on the Sturt and Newell highways.

“We are on the junction of five busy highways and our area is bounded by Ardlethan, Leeton, Urana and Jerilderie,’’ vice-captain Alastair Macdonald said.

“We don’t just attend motor vehicle accidents but also carry out flood rescue, inland water rescue, and assisting police and ambulance,’’ he said. “We are the primary rescue unit for this area and work closely with Fire and Rescue NSW.

“Our barbecue fundraising has gone towards portable battery-operated hydraulic spreaders. We are looking at upgrading lighting equipment, boating equipment and working towards getting updated enough so we can encourage new members in.’’

The squad celebrated 50 years in 2018 and is one of the oldest in the state.

NSW VRA commissioner Mark Gibson said the annual $1.365 million grant was no longer sufficient to cover operational costs.

“This (additional) funding ensures our financial sustainability and will increase our capability in providing a professional volunteer based emergency and rescue service to the community,’’ Mr Gibson said.

He said the purchase of 30 new vehicles would standardise the fleet and include 18 medium rigid and 12 quick response trucks.

He said the whole fleet would be modernised with ageing vehicles decommissioned.

All new rescue vehicles will be fitted with new hydraulic rescue equipment.

“These purchases will form an important step in upgrading hydraulic rescue equipment right across the organisation and assist with inter-agency compatibility, capacity and service delivery to the community,’’ Mr Gibson said.

The funds will also allow for more portable and light weight battery powered rescue cutters and spreaders, more specialist rescue equipment and resources, such as power tools, lighting towers and first aid kits.

It will also allow for rescue boats and jet skis for assisting the NSW Police Force with inland waterways search and rescue and body retrieval operations, along with wet suits, vessels, rafts, ropes, reach poles and specialist ropes for flood rescue.

Mr Gibson said all personal protective clothing and equipment would be in the future issued free to volunteer members.

“This will bring our organisation in line with other emergency service organisations that provide these items to their volunteers,’’ he said.

The Narrandera Squad is one of the many NSW Volunteer Rescue Association rescue squads located in regional NSW that run on the back of volunteers.

The NSW VRA attends about 10,000 incidents a year, including motor vehicle accidents, searches, body recoveries, inland water search and recovery, vertical rescues, animal rescues, lighting of crime scenes and emergency lighting, swift water rescue, industrial and domestic rescue, first aid at sporting events and traffic control for community events.

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