Am8 delayed

 
  freightgate Minister for Railways

Location: Albury, New South Wales
call earlier this arvo that MA6 was being held at Aldgate account of Bushfires inside the Belair National Park at Belair.

Via mailing list today

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  justapassenger Minister for Railways

The CFS has closed Mt Lofty to Belair until further notice - the rail line is right at the centre of the fireground so there's no question that the CFS made the right call to tell ARTC to shut it down. There is a wind change coming soon and the possible showers forecast tonight will not be enough to extinguish the fire, so it will probably continue to be closed well into tomorrow.

The fire started right alongside the line on the curve just south of the Long Gully tunnel (which runs under Saddle Hill Road) this morning, around the time that the MTP has 6MP5 and 4PM6 scheduled to use the Belair to Mt Lofty section of the route. Now we all know the MTP often doesn't mean a lot at times, but the location alone makes it a certainty that fire cause investigators will be looking very closely at whether a train having caused it.

Adelaide Metro is also diverting the bus routes 195, 196 and B1 as the CFS has occupied Upper Sturt Road, but for the time being Mitcham-Belair trains are still running as the fire is currently in the eastern end of the park - but they too will probably stop when the wind changes this afternoon. GSR will probably have to terminate the westbound Overland at Murray Bridge (or even earlier, depending on where other westbound trains queue up along the route) and bustitute to the city from there.
  waynes Junior Train Controller

Location: Victoria
A BUSHFIRE burning out of control at Belair National Park is now contained - but a wind change later could push it out of containment lines, the CFS says.
The CFS says though the bushfire has been downgraded from an emergency alert to a watch and act, there remains a risk of it "escaping with the changing weather conditions".
"Those living near or travelling around the Belair National Park need to monitor local conditions and activate their Bushfire Survival Plan. Belair National Park is closed," the CFS says.
As well as the wind change, the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting a chance of lightning, which would heighten the fire risk.

Smoke from the fire burning in Belair National Park. Picture: Roger Wyman



http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/cfs-crews-contain-bushfire-at-belair-national-park/story-fnl1ee8j-1226820896883?from=google_rss
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Note that the story correctly lists the fire as contained, not completed - this means it is still an ongoing fire but the CFS has containment lines in place to protect further properties.

It's also worth noting that fires can shift back from contained to going if they breach the containment lines - this happened today with the Bangor fire which started on 14 January, and could happen again today with the Crafers West (Belair NP) fire when the wind changes and increases.
  SAR520SMBH Train Controller

I heard on the scanner radio that the freight train held at Aldgate had been released and allowed to proceed at approximately 16:00 hrs? this afternoon.
Reception was pretty crackly but it was a CFS member that said it over the radio.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park


Sturt Police are treating a series of four fires at the Belair National Park this morning as suspicious. Just after 8.30am, a police patrol on Upper Sturt Road as part of Operation Nomad duties, spotted smoke coming from the Belair National Park. CFS crews were notified with a further three fires reported inside the Belair National Park. A number of nearby residents were evacuated before the fires were contained. An estimated total of 15 hectares were damaged in the fires. Sturt Police investigating are treating the cause of the fires as suspicious Anyone with information on the fires or suspicious persons or vehicles seen in or around the Belair National Park this morning are asked to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. The public are asked to remain vigilant in bushfire prone areas and report any suspicious activity to police on 131 444.
SA Police News
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
I wonder how many locals fled their houses to get blocked at level crossing by 40km long freight trains travelling at 6m per hour?
  defman70 Train Controller

I wonder how many locals fled their houses to get blocked at level crossing by 40km long freight trains travelling at 6m per hour?
Aaron

Had EXACTLY the same thought, was thinking of writing a letter to the Ed of Mitcham Messenger asking the same thing of Mr Councillor....
  trainznbuses Train Controller
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

I thought that was likely to be the case, and that the previous talk about an arsonist was just put out there to cover all bases and keep the general public attentive.  Locals all know that the spot where it started is very inaccessible - and arsonists are generally not suicidal.

Maybe there's a case for guard's vans to be required between Adelaide and Tailem Bend on days of Extreme or Catastrophic fire conditions to allow train-caused fires to be spotted and called in CFS immediately. A scheme capping liability for the train operator if the fire was reported from the back of the train could provide the necessary incentive for the operators to pay for it.

Regardless of the cause, yesterday does show that the proactive Operation Nomad patrols are working - the smoke was spotted by a patrol around the same time the cyclist on Saddle Hill Road saw it. If the cyclist wasn't silly enough to be riding through a closed national park on an Extreme or Catastrophic fire condition day (don't worry, he's been set straight on that by fellow members of the cycling community already) then the police patrol would have been the first sighting of it.
  SAR520SMBH Train Controller

Now that it has been confirmed that the fires were caused by a freight train I wonder how long it will be before the residents that live along the corridor and surrounding areas start jumping up and down again about wanting the rail line diverted around the Adelaide Hills?.
I wouldn't be surprised if this weeks or next weeks Hills and Valley Messenger make a mention of it.
When was the last time it was confirmed that a fire in the Adelaide Hills was started by a train?
  steam4ian Chief Commissioner

Justapax.

The brake van sounds a good idea, now, where do you find them.

Pich Richi run a fire trolley behind trains when conditions demand it but that really needs a team of four.

Quite a bit of fun putting out lineside fire and it is surprising how quickly it takes hold and how much effort it takes to get it out. A couple of people with knapsack sprays can start to get it under control before the water pump starts, that is the big guns. First thing is to radio the train to stop if the guard hasn't already observed the fire.

The real issue is lineside clearing. In steam days the SAR ploughed a fire break along the track and did burn offs.

Ian
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

Now that it has been confirmed that the fires were caused by a freight train
"SAR520SMBH"
I'm not aware of it being confirmed yet, it is just the current main theory. The conclusion of the investigation will come later.

... I wonder how long it will be before the residents that live along the corridor and surrounding areas start jumping up and down again about wanting the rail line diverted around the Adelaide Hills?.
I wouldn't be surprised if this weeks or next weeks Hills and Valley Messenger make a mention of it.
"SAR520SMBH"
Read the AdelaideNow comments, they are already going at it. They are entirely correct in this instance, pro-rail people will just have to shut up and let them vent their righteous anger.

The state government will be under pressure to do something about it, and as diversion of the line is not an option it will have to come down to throwing the responsible train operating company under the bus, maybe threaten to have SAPOL order their trains be stopped at Mile End or Tailem Bend to inspect for hot axle boxes on extreme/catastrophic fire condition days. If the rail operator wants to claw back a bit of goodwill in the region the best way to do it would be to pay for the entire amount of CFS resources used in fighting their fire and then add on a donation to cover the entire remaining amount required for the Sturt CFS Group Tanker Appeal - if I remember correctly the total cost of the tanker was going to be about $250,000 so covering the part still remaining would be small change for a giant corporation like Asciano or Gennessee & Wyoming.

When was the last time it was confirmed that a fire in the Adelaide Hills was started by a train?
"SAR520SMBH"
There have probably been small ones a few times since, but the last notable train-caused fire I remember which got away in the Adelaide Hills was one in the summer of either 2010-11 or 2011-12 (I can't remember which) which threatened houses on the outskirts of Nairne. The CFS stopped it three metres short of the first property it would have reached (radiant heat damaged the fence and smoke damaged the house) which it was rumoured had PN giving the owner a six figure sum large enough to cover full repairs and enough extra to make it worth their while to accept a non-disclosure agreement.
Justapax.

The brake van sounds a good idea, now, where do you find them.
"steam4ian"
It wouldn't need to be a "proper" van as the only required function would be somewhere to look out and observe the line and a couple of portable radios to contact the loco and emergency services. Australia being an inventive country we could get away with using any of the following alternatives instead of a 'proper' brake van:
1. Use a regular crew car on the back of the train rather than the front.
2. Use redundant GSR stock not fit for normal passenger use.
3. Some sort of container-derived cabin mounted on a regular intermodal flatcar, fitted with air conditioning of course.
4. A flat car with a CFS truck parked on it! This would have the interesting possibility of using a flip-down ramp to leave the truck at the scene of a fire.

I partly agree with your point about better lineside husbandry, but I'd also say your memory of the SAR is more than a little rose-tinted and that the Adelaide Hills section of the line has never had a wide enough corridor for proper clearance to prevent trains causing fires. There's little incentive to improve on it, insurance premiums are cheaper than purchasing the necessary land to make a proper width corridor, especially if liability gets split between the above-rail and below-rail operators.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
What is wrong with a Fire truck capable of running on rails?   I was on a trip in Queenslad 10 years ago where a fire truck (or trucks) followed the train all the way from Brisbane to Cairns.

If they don't already exist perhaps ARTC could set several Fire Trucks up and co-locate at least one with the DEWNR Belair Unit.

DEWNR takes fire seriously and has several for Belair National Park and others for a lot of the other parks in fire prone areas.
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

I believe Mt Lofty would be a more versatile location to base a couple of hi-rail fire trucks than Belair.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
I believe Mt Lofty would be a more versatile location to base a couple of hi-rail fire trucks than Belair.
justapassenger

DEWNR already have fire units in the Belair Park and also at Cleland and Mt Lofty Gardens.   I'm thinking the ARTC Unit(s) would be in joint service with DEWNR with priority use on the railway.

What would they do at Mt Lofty station for the 363 days a year it isn't a Catastrophic fire ban day?    They cost a lot and having them sit around doing nothing is a waste of resources.

In any case fighting fires away from the railway corridor may well protect the corridor if it is threatened.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
Damn you greens and your non (or anti) bushfire fuel load reducing policies...
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
+1 for a CFS Hi-Rail (or two) to tail freights through the hills on high fire danger days.
  hosk1956 Deputy Commissioner

Location: no where near gunzels
+1 for a CFS Hi-Rail (or two) to tail freights through the hills on high fire danger days.
Aaron

You'll have all the rail enthusiasts in the hills rolling up to join a hills CFS brigade just to get on the Hi-Rail stint!!

Wayne
  justapassenger Minister for Railways

DEWNR already have fire units in the Belair Park and also at Cleland and Mt Lofty Gardens.   I'm thinking the ARTC Unit(s) would be in joint service with DEWNR with priority use on the railway.
"kipioneer"
I'd prefer them to be in joint CFS-ARTC service, not DEWNR-ARTC service, to avoid them being exclusively focued on use on the short bit through Belair NP.

What would they do at Mt Lofty station for the 363 days a year it isn't a Catastrophic fire ban day?    They cost a lot and having them sit around doing nothing is a waste of resources.
"kipioneer"
For the other 49-50 weeks without Extreme/Catastrophic fire conditions they would be available to Mount Lofty Group brigades for conventional CFS duties, based at whichever of Stirling, Aldgate or Bridgewater has the most convenient facilities and rail access point.

Alternatively, an even better spot to locate them would be at the Balhannah ARTC depot, with the train escorts on Extreme/Catastrophic fire condition days starting at the Balhannah loop, reversing somewhere in the metro area (the vacant land out the back of Mitcham station?) and returning to Balhannah with the next train. The other 49-50 weeks they would be available to Onkaparinga Group brigades to the north of Balhannah and Heysen Group brigades to the south as required.

In any case fighting fires away from the railway corridor may well protect the corridor if it is threatened.
"kipioneer"
Very true. That is why you would want them available for train escorts when there is a high danger of a train-caused fire getting out of control, and doing conventional CFS duties for when there are actual fires and no need to escort that trains which would be kept out of the area.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
You'll have all the rail enthusiasts in the hills rolling up to join a hills CFS brigade just to get on the Hi-Rail stint!!

Wayne
"hosk1956"
And that's a bad thing? - I for one could make a case each way... That said, most CFS units 'suggest' you live within four minutes travel of the station, that would probably rule out most 'rail enthusiasts'.
  Aaron The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: University of Adelaide SA
I'd prefer them to be in joint CFS-ARTC service, not DEWNR-ARTC service, to avoid them being exclusively focued on use on the short bit through Belair NP.

For the other 49-50 weeks without Extreme/Catastrophic fire conditions they would be available to Mount Lofty Group brigades for conventional CFS duties, based at whichever of Stirling, Aldgate or Bridgewater has the most convenient facilities and rail access point.

Alternatively, an even better spot to locate them would be at the Balhannah ARTC depot, with the train escorts on Extreme/Catastrophic fire condition days starting at the Balhannah loop, reversing somewhere in the metro area (the vacant land out the back of Mitcham station?) and returning to Balhannah with the next train. The other 49-50 weeks they would be available to Onkaparinga Group brigades to the north of Balhannah and Heysen Group brigades to the south as required.

Very true. That is why you would want them available for train escorts when there is a high danger of a train-caused fire getting out of control, and doing conventional CFS duties for when there are actual fires and no need to escort that trains which would be kept out of the area.
"justapassenger"
I'd agree with most of that. If the ARTC attached a 'fire arm' to a relevant CFS they could be used far more widely than the tiny National Park sector. Given there's only one movement at a time between loops there's scope for having units chase up and down movements between their two designated loops. As JAP notes, it's probably not necessary to follow a train all the way up to Mile End, so maybe in that case turning and waiting for the next down service at Mitcham is an option.

The service could be used much more widely than just catastrophic (or even extreme or high) fire danger/ban days (which occur much more than two days a year kipioneer), including also as a generic 'emergency' response on the rail line, be that fire, derailment or accident response.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
The National Park Fire Units are used well beyond the boundaries of parks and reserves.   For example they provide paid fire fighters to conduct such things as roadside vegetation clearance and burn-offs on public land outside of the reserve system.    Doing this relieves the CFS of the responsibility and allows the CFS volunteers to get on with their normal lives.

National parks and other reserves take up 21.5% of the state's land area Area Statement, a not insignificant area.

The Queensland trucks I referred to earlier were QR owned and operated by QR crews.    

Neither were the QR trucks dedicated to fire service for they had portable water tanks and pumps on a "normal" perway hi-rail truck.

The ARTC trucks could be operated the same way as QR, or on dedicated trucks along the same lines as the NPWS fire service, with trained firefighters drawn from within ARTC perway employees and perhaps other rail workers with fire fighting as part of their duties, or simply shared with NPWS.

There is the matter of the truck driver at least, being familiar with working on track which suggests ARTC direct involvement.

Operating them as train escorts with CFS people is to remove the CFS people from firefighting duties elsewhere.

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