South Australian Country Fire Service

South Australian Country Fire Service
SA Country Fire Service
The CFS Badge
Established: 1976
Regions: 6
Specialities: Combatant Authority for Fire, Rescue and Hazmat
Volunteers: ~15,500
Paid Staff: 109
Brigades: 434
Location: South Australia
Current CO: Greg Nettleton
Website Official CFS Website
Grass fire at Willunga. January 2006

The SA Country Fire Service is a volunteer based fire service in the state of South Australia in Australia. Many parts of Australia are sparsely populated whilst at the same time they are under significant risk of bushfire. Due to economics, it is prohibitively expensive for each Australian town or village to have a paid fire service (department). The compromise adopted is to have government funded equipment and training but volunteer fire-fighters to perform the duties of regular fire-fighters.

In South Australia, the name for the volunteer service is the CFS. Other Australian States and Territories have their own service, such as the Country Fire Authority in the state of Victoria and the Rural Fire Service in the state of New South Wales.

In the state capital Adelaide, a conventional paid service exists, called the SA Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS). A handful of large towns in South Australia also have retained 'Metro' or 'MFS' services, but the vast majority (over 430 communities) rely on the CFS. Several Adelaide suburbs that retain extensive scrubland have CFS stations whose area of operation overlaps that of the SAMFS with joint training exercises sometimes organised for major community facilities such as the Flinders Medical Centre. For urban incidents, both services will often attend with the first arrival taking command.


About the CFS

The SA Country Fire Service (SACFS) is the volunteer combatant authority for firefighting, road crash, and hazardous materials in the country region of South Australia (SA). Their official mission is "To protect life, property and the environment from fire and other emergencies whilst protecting and supporting our personnel and continuously improving."

A unique look

A fire fighter wears Breathing Apparatus at a vehicle fire.
Two types of personal protective equipment are currently in use: yellow NOMEX (left) for general firefighting, and "PBI Gold" for structure fires.

The Country Fire Service is different to most fire services world wide, in that the fire appliances are painted white, rather than red. This has many benefits, especially in visibility on road, and in thick smoke, but also has the disadvantage that they are sometimes not perceived by the public as fire trucks.[citation needed] The day/night striping down the sides of appliances is either the old silver and red standard (as seen in most images on this page), or a newer red and gold chequering. The red and gold chequering provides much better visibility, particularly for crews working on roads. Some appliances are also trialling battenburg striping with bright chevrons on the rear of the appliances.

Fire fighters wear yellow protective clothing, with a two-piece set being the standard (Bunker pants, and turn out coat). With the introduction of PBI Gold (improved structural fire-fighting clothing), some CFS volunteers are now seen wearing yellow/brown coloured clothing. Most turn out coats have "CFS" or "FIRE" on the back in reflective writing. More modern jackets also have day/night striping around the sleeves and bottom of the jacket. Safety Vests are provided for work on the roads. these have "Fire", "Rescue", or "CFS" on both front and back in reflective writing.

Reflective tabbard worn at an incident

Fire fighters' helmets are white, (senior fire fighters have a red stripe), with the fire fighters surname on the back of the helmet in reflective, glow in the dark writing. Lieutenants and Captains have yellow helmets (the captain has a red stripe), and Deputy Group Officers and above have red helmets. Regional staff have a blue stripe on their helmet.

CFS History

In colonial times, the government attempted to control the outbreak of wildfires by legislating against the careless use of fire. This began with the 1847 ordinance against reckless burn-offs of stubble and grass. The challenge of fire suppression was left to local residents who would band together to fight fires without any formal organization or authority. In 1913, district councils were given the right to appoint fire control officers given the power to do anything 'necessary or expedient and practicable' to prevent fires or to protect life and property.

As firefighting technology advanced during World War II, a government-equipped volunteer Emergency Fire Service (EFS) brigade was established in Adelaide followed by additional brigades in some country areas. After the war, equipment from these brigades was lent to district councils for rural firefighting work. To supervise the program, an Emergency Fire Services division was formed as a division of the police department.

Throughout the mid-1950s, the EFS grew stronger and more organized, and volunteers began to campaign for the establishment of the EFS as a statutory authority. This was achieved in 1976 with the passing of the Country Fires Act through the South Australian Government which retitled the EFS as the County Fire Service (CFS). The Country Fires Act, 1989 pulled the control of the CFS away from district councils to the State Government, allowing for the development of a standardised service able to respond quickly to emergencies across South Australia. In the late 1990s, as part of a drive to ensure that the CFS was properly equipped, another major change in funding was brought in, and the administration of the Service was combined with the administration of several other emergency services.[1] Today, the Emergency Services Levy Funding provides for the training, equipment and administration resources required to maintain the operation of the Service, but the CFS still stands fundamentally on the commitment and energy of its volunteers.[2]

In 2005 the South Australian Fire and Emergency Services Commission (SAFECOM) Act was passed in South Australian Parliament. This act brings the Country Fire Service (SACFS) Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS) and South Australian State Emergency Service (SASES) together under one administration board, and funding source. Vince Monterola, CEO of the Country Fire Service at the time, was appointed as the inaugural chairman. It is this Act that defines the Country Fire Service (CFS) as the South Australian Country Fire Service (SACFS). The SAFECOM Act of 2005 replaces the Country Fires Act of 1989, the South Australian Metropolitan Fire Service Act of 1936 and the State Emergency Service Act of 1987.[1]


An appliance from Ironbank at a bushfire on Kangaroo Island, January 2006

The CFS is made up of brigades which are organised into groups, which are again grouped into Regions. There are six regions in SA, and 55 groups. The CFS consists of around 434 brigades and 16,400 volunteers (11,800 fire fighters, 3,400 Auxiliary and 1000 cadets).

Strike teams

Large regional strike team on Kangaroo Island, January 2006

A "strike team" is a deployment of appliances out of their usual area of operation. A strike team is made up as an operational unit to simplify incident command and control. A strike team consists of 5 fire appliances and a leading command car. The most common configuration is 4 Fire fighting appliances and 1 Bulk water carrier. Strike teams generally have a purpose for example a campaign strike team (with a full range of appliances) or an Impact strike team which consists of 5 fire trucks, mostly small and manoeuvrable (14's or 24's). Typically Strike teams are sourced from a group, and are named after their group. (e.g., A strike team from Swanport Group would be called "Swanport strike team"). Strike teams however can be composite made up from appliances from a number of groups. Strike teams are often deployed to regional areas for several days deployment. Often a strike team will be in charge of a particular sector of a fire.

Along a similar line task forces are groups of appliances that are mobilised to combat a particular incident out of their usual area of operation. However task forces are more flexible in their makeup and appliances are usually specifically selected for a particular incident. Where practical the 1 leader with 5 subordinates ratio is maintained for command ability. Task forces attend a wide range of incidents including flooding.

There are also regional strike teams. These strike teams are put together when there are high fire danger days coming up and the CFS does not want to stretch a group's resources. These regional strike teams usually have one or two trucks from a few groups in that region. They sometimes have two or more commanding cars, plus a State Emergency Service vehicle for logistics.

Chain of command

The CFS chain of command is set out in the following way, with the top being the most senior in rank:

  • Chief Officer (Red helmet with a white stripe)
  • Deputy Chief Officer (Red helmet with a white stripe)
  • Assistant Chief Officer (Red helmet with a white stripe)
  • Commander / Regional Commander (Red helmet with a blue stripe)
  • Staff/Regional Officer (Red helmet with a blue stripe)
  • Group Officer (Red helmet)
  • Deputy Group Officer (Red helmet)
  • Brigade Captain (Yellow helmet with a red stripe) is the most senior rank in a brigade and he or she is responsible for the operational and administrative aspects of the brigade. The position is elected by members of the brigade. Some of the things that a Captain will do are: undertaking responsibility for the proper management and maintenance of brigade property and equipment, ensuring members of the brigade are properly trained, take command of incidents and ensure that the chain of command within the brigade operates effectively, assisting with bushfire prevention and planning within the brigade's response area, liaising with other captains in adjacent brigades and managing the operations of the brigade in accordance with any determination of the CFS board.
  • Brigade Lieutenant. (Yellow helmet) There must be at least two Lieutenants in a brigade and a maximum of four. They are elected to assist the captain in the performance of his or her functions, and take over in the absence of the Captain.
  • Senior Fire Fighter. (White helmet with a red stripe) Seniors are not officers as such, but assist the Captain and Lieutenants with mainly operational management. They should be experienced personnel within the brigade, and they provide an opportunity for brigades to establish a line of middle management or succession planning. Some people see the position of a Senior as a build up to becoming a Lieutenant.
  • Fire Fighter (White helmet) is the lowest rank of operational fire personnel, but they are the most important, because they make up the numbers. These fire-fighters can be trained just as much as a more highly ranked person but they do not usually take a leadership role at an incident.
  • Cadet. (White helmet with "cadet" sticker) The age in which you can become a cadet is 11, but some brigades will set higher minimum ages for their members. At the age of 16 you are able to choose to become a fire-fighter, or stay on until you are 18 as a cadet. Cadets are taught skills which will help them when they become fire-fighters.
  • Auxiliary brigade member. (no helmet) They do not go out on the fire truck. They help out with any of the other jobs that need doing, including fundraising, preparing food, operating the station radio etc.

All positions from Group Officer down (inclusive) are voluntary and are elected democratically by fire-fighters (with the exception of cadets).

Regional Officers and above are appointed by the state government.

Other positions that may be held within a brigade are:

  • Brigade Communications Officer is responsible for ensuring all communication equipment is operational and utilised correctly and efficiently.
  • Brigade Training Coordinator coordinates training, including weekly training and ensuring volunteers are placed on appropriate specialist courses.
  • Brigade Logistics Support Officer provides logistics support at a local level, e.g. food packs on appliances, and resource directories in the radio room.
  • Brigade OH&S Coordinator ensures OH&S requirements are met, and near miss and accident report forms are lodged appropriately.
  • Brigade Administration Officer does administration, including signing up of new members.


Former Chiefs of the Country Fire Service have included:

Chief Officer

  • Greg Nettleton as of January 24, 2011.
  • Euan Ferguson since 2001. Announced resignation 30th Sept 2010 to take the role of Chief Officer of the CFA


  • Vince Monterola (2001–2003)
  • Stuart Ellis (1996–2001)
  • Alan Ferris (1994–1996)


  • Donald Macarthur (1985–1994)
  • Lloyd Johns (1979–1984)
  • Fred Kerr (1977–1979, and EFS Director from 1949)

CFS logos

The CFS star logo, now mostly replaced by the 'corporate logo'. Each point represents a desired quality in a fire fighter

The eight-pointed star logo is used as the official badge of the SA Country Fire Service. It is claimed to have originated from the Maltese Cross, the emblem of the Knights of Malta, which was used by the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem at the time of the Crusades. The points or tenets were said to represent the knightly virtues of tact, loyalty, dexterity, observation, sympathy, explicitness, gallantry and perseverance. Since these virtues represent the qualities required by a firefighter, the star was chosen for the insignia of the CFS.[3]

Each point of the Star represents a virtue, valued in a fire fighter. these are (from top point, going clock-wise)

  • Tact
  • Loyalty
  • Dexterity
  • Observation
  • Sympathy
  • Gallantry
  • Explicitness, and
  • Perseverance
The current CFS corporate logo. Introduced at the turn of the century.

Although the corporate 'taxi' logo is now used in most applications, the star is still the Official insignia of the CFS.

The new corporate logo was introduced in 1999, in an effort to present the modern image of the CFS as a professional organisation. The logo should be used on fire appliances, fleet vehicles, helmets and official CFS publications. The logo was chosen as a result of a competition and is based on a design by a CFS volunteer, Gary MacRae[citation needed]. The red checker pattern representing the fire service, the yellow representing the colour of the CFS turn-out gear, and the map of south Australia representing the area served.


The CFS has a few ways of dispatching brigades to emergencies, however in almost all, pagers are used to alert volunteers to the incident. People wanting to report an incident should ring the national emergency number 000, (or 112 from a mobile phone), and ask for 'fire'. Their call will be taken by trained operators at the SAMFS communications centre. Brigades can also be responded by notifying a brigade in person, or by ringing the local brigade's phone (if the station is manned). If they ring the local fire brigade's emergency number, they will be put through to the ALERTS system, which sets up a teleconference with brigade members, as well as a call taker at SAMFS. Using the 000 emergency number is recommended.

As of July 2007, all dispatch and day-to-day state operations were relocated to the SAMFS communications centre. SAMFS are now the lead agency undertaking dispatch for MFS, CFS and SES.

Bush Fire strike team Kangaroo Island. January 2006


In addition to special services such as flood damage, and weather damage (e.g. trees over roads), the CFS responds to three main incident types.

Motor vehicle accident (MVA) spillages, and Road Crash Rescue (RCR)

Crews clean up after a minor MVA.

The CFS provides fire cover and clean up at road accidents. When there are entrapments, the CFS will provide fire cover, and when required will respond with rescue appliances with the appropriate tools for stabilising and extricating trapped casualties. They also perform other rescue duties, such as rope (vertical / high angle) rescue, confined space rescue, building collapse related rescue, industrial site rescue, water and ice related rescues/emergencies and animal rescues.

The Country Fire Service often performs these duties with the assistance of other agencies. Such as the Metropolitan Fire Service (SAMFS), State Emergency Service (SES), South Australian Police (SAPOL), the South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS) and Water Operations (Volunteer Coast Guard, SES, F MAS, life saving or Sea Rescue).

Fire fighting

Fire fighting is the main job of the CFS. They respond to any fires including country and urban. Fire fighters combat grass fires, bush fires, crop fires, scrub fires, haystack fires, and brush fence fires, house fires, chimney fires, car fires, rubbish bin fires etc. Most trucks carry breathing apparatus, and use foam as a fire fighting agent.

The CFS's specialty is the containment, control and extinguishing of bushfires (wildfires). This can be via offensive or defensive methods of attack. Also with the aid of water bombers (Crop duster type fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters). While Fire-fighters will never put themselves into an overly dangerous situation, (the Dead Man Zone) they will attack the fire as quickly and as directly as possible.

Fire fighting can be done in several ways:

  • As a direct attack,
    • A head attack (the front of the fire is attacked. Only suitable for small, or slow moving fires)
    • A flank attack. (The most common method. The fire is extinguished along its flanks, starting at the back, and working forward, until you have pinched the fire out).
  • As an indirect attack
    • Back Burning (Light a smaller fire in front of the main front, so that when the main front arrives, there is no fuel left to burn.)
    • Using mineral earth breaks (Using bulldozers, or rakehoes to clear fuel from the path of the fire)
    • Leaving a fire to burn itself out, while monitoring its perimeter.

Special service

The CFS is the combatant authority for HAZMAT (hazardous materials) incidents. However, not all brigades respond to these. As HAZMAT incidents require a lot of people, only about 1 in 10 brigades are HAZMAT trained, and resources are drawn from all over the state. The CFS is the only authority in country South Australia that is equipped to deal with hazardous material spillages. Urban fringe brigades also do "Enhanced Mutual Aid" with the SA Metropolitan Fire Service. This involves change of quarters to metropolitan stations and responding to incidents in the metropolitan area.


The CFS has 5 types of appliances: urban appliances, rural appliances, specialised appliances, Combinations of all three and water bombers.

Rural appliances

A Standard 24 (Two-four) appliance, stowed with rural equipment as well as BA

CFS Appliances have a call sign which describes the appliance. The most common rural appliance is a 24 (Pronounced two-four), which means it carries 2000 litres of water and is a 4 wheel drive (4WD). Other common appliances are 34 (3000L, 4WD), 14 (1000L, 4WD), 12 (1000L, 2WD). These figures are the nominal water carrying capacity. Fire fighting appliances carry water, foam and other fire fighting related tools and equipment. They are designed for bush/scrub/grass fire fighting however can be utilised for a number of other duties. Bulk Water Carriers (BWC, previously called 'Tankers'), which carry large volumes of water, also respond to rural related incidents, however may be used as water sources for structural fires, car fires, HAZMAT incidents etc., where water sources are minimal.

These rural appliances are extremely important for keeping South Australia protected from fires. Almost every town in South Australia would have at least one of these rural fire trucks. The reason that there are many different types of rural trucks, is because the terrain changes a lot in South Australia. A 14 appliance, only carries 1000 litres nominally (often 600L usable), but is extremely useful for getting into small tracks which larger appliances can not. Large 34s often have trouble in getting into smaller areas. 24s are the most common, because they are not too heavy and big, but carry a reasonable amount of water, which can last a good time before having to fill up. In most parts of South Australia outside major centres there is no water mains, so this is where Bulk Water Carriers come in handy. These BWCs, often at a rural fire, will be stationary at the edge of it, for smaller trucks to fill up from. when empty it is their job to go and find water in places including, rivers, dams, swimming pools and water tanks.

Urban appliances

New CFS Pumper (Burnside 2009) - Carries 4 x BA (3 x in-seat), Rescue and Hazmat equipment. Used in urban and rural environments

Urban appliances are usually Pumpers', 24Pumpers' (24P), 34Pumpers' (34P) or 12 appliances. They have bigger pumps, and are more suitable for responding to urban incidents like house fires, car accidents etc.

Specialised appliances

These are trucks which are designed for one purpose, like Rescue, or HAZMAT. Usually these are combined with another truck. (e.g. A pumper will be a combined Pumper/HAZMAT truck, or Pumper/Rescue) There is one state-wide HAZMAT truck, which is based at Burnside CFS that responds to any HAZMAT incident in the state. It carries extra air cylinders for the Breathing Apparatus as well as gas tight suits, atmospheric monitoring equipment, and other specialised equipment.

According to the Basic Fire Fighting 1 (BFF1) manual, the CFS vehicles are such:[4]

  • 73 Urban appliances
  • 515 Rural Appliances
  • 7 Multi purpose appliances
  • 1 state HAZMAT response appliance
  • 71 Command vehicles
  • 11 Rescue Vehicles
  • 17 Tankers
  • 150 Miscellaneous transport vehicles


Skills Training

The CFS pays for all its volunteers to be trained to the required level. It has a world class training centre at Brukunga, in the Adelaide Hills, where the specialised courses are held. However, some courses are trained by other services or companies, like first aid, given by St Johns. There is another training centre, called the south coast training centre, but it is not as well equipped, nor funded. Here is a list of some of the courses available.

Fire fighters train to combat LP gas fires.
  • Basic Fire Fighting 1 (BFF1) (Basic training course) (Nationally accredited)
  • Suppress Wildfire (Level 2) (Nationally accredited)
  • Level 3 (new course out soon, which is nationally accredited)
  • Plantation Fire Fighting
  • Operate Breathing Apparatus Open Circuit (Nationally accredited)
  • Compartment Fire Behaviour (Nationally accredited)
  • Hazmat (Nationally accredited)
  • Road crash rescue (Nationally accredited)
  • Senior First Aid
  • Advanced Resuscitation
  • Rope Rescue (Nationally accredited)
  • AIIMS incident management (Nationally accredited)
  • Leadership
  • Navigate in Urban and Rural Environments
  • Global Positioning Systems Instructor
  • Leadership (Nationally accredited)
  • SPAM (Stress Prevention And Management)
  • Train Small Groups
  • Flammable Liquids (FL)/ Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) Workshop
  • Atmosphere Monitoring

Weekly Training

Most urban stations have a weekly training, the time of this training differs between brigades. (Some brigades opt to have 2 training days a week, so that all members can attend). In this training time CFS members will revise skills which they have learnt in skill training. This training time is also used for organisation and maintenance. Below is a list of common things that happen on Training nights.

Fire fighters test a hose line during training.
  • Testing of equipment
  • Pumps, pumping and draughting
  • Social Games with other brigades
  • Map reading, and navigation
  • Communication skills
  • Mock Search and Rescue
  • Vehicle and station maintenance
  • Fitness tests
  • Mock Vehicle accidents
  • Mock running grass fire
  • Other mock incidents

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Basic Firefighting 1 Learner Guide", "Unit 1: CFS agency awareness and Teamwork"
  2. ^ "Basic Firefighting 1 Learner Guide", "Unit 1: CFS agency awareness and Teamwork"
  3. ^ "Basic Firefighting 1 Learner Guide", "Unit 1: CFS agency awareness and Teamwork"
  4. ^ "Basic Firefighting 1 Learner Guide", "Unit 1: CFS agency awareness and Teamwork"

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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