Industry spotlight: Cat D5K2 XL Dozer

By: Ron Horner

Presented by
  • Earthmovers & Exacavators

As bushfires swept through the Blue Mountains, a Cat D5K2 XL Dozer went from building a Supercross track to firefighting duties. Ron Horner highlights the work undertaken by the earthmoving community during this trying time

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In this crazy world of earthmoving I am always amazed at how many times you can come across the same machine, albeit in different states, cities or regions, working in differing conditions and owned by different contractors.

This just happened to me over the last couple of months of 2019 when I first came across this lovely little Cat D5K2 XL Dozer in Wollongong and then found it fighting rampaging fires in the Blue Mountains a couple of months later.

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Rod Gurney owns R&A Chainsaws and Mowers in Lithgow as well as being a member of Hartley Rural Fire Service

THE TRY LINE

A couple of months ago I was coerced into assisting Troy Bayless Events in the build of the Supercross track at WIN Stadium and to complete the task I needed some good, reliable equipment.

After a call to used equipment manager Michael Geale at WesTrac NSW, excavators, loaders and mini tracked loaders were all delivered, along with a D5K2 XL Dozer.

For several day and night shifts the little dozer pushed, shoved, trimmed, compacted, re-trimmed and recompacted to construct the track.

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Jed Peters, captain of the Hartley Rural Fire Service, also helps run his family business Peters Earthmoving

A NEW ERA

Fast forward to December 2019 and the eastern states of Australia are being savaged by unrelenting bushfires, some of which ravaged the area in which I grew up – Lithgow and the Blue Mountains of NSW.

Having family and lifelong friends in the areas in and around Lithgow I was called to an emergency trip to the region once the fires had tempered enough to gain vehicular access. Meeting up with friends and family I soon realised how many of them had been affected by the fires and those not directly affected by them were out fighting them on the fire line as volunteer fire fighters charged with protecting homes, lives and infrastructure.

It was at a late evening feeding of the Hartley Rural Fire Service members where I caught up with a couple of old mates, long-time friends Rod and Corey Gurney and Jed Peters, all active members of the Hartley Rural Fire Service.

Rod owns R& A Chainsaws and Mowers in Lithgow and he and his son Corey are vital members of the team.

Jed is one of a large family of boys involved with the family business Peters Earthmoving. Headed up by his father Adam many years ago, they have grown into one of the largest, most successful and respected earthmoving contractors in the Blue Mountains and Central Western region of NSW.

Jed just happens to be the captain of the Hartley Rural Fire Service. His knowledge of the local area, his fire fighting experience, leadership skills and his all-round ability and expertise as a multi skilled plant operator/owner certainly hangs well on his CV.

We discussed many things over a beer, as old mates do, but everything came back to earthmoving and the fires and, as the result of them, all of his available equipment was out there fighting the blazes on all fronts.

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The D5K2 XL dozer is the ideal machine for cleaning up old fire trails, creating fire breaks and clearing dead undergrowth

THE FIRE LINE

It was then that Jed told me that he had bought a nice little DK5-2 XL Dozer from WesTrac in Wollongong and that he was speaking to Michael Geale on the history of the machine. He told Mick he needed a D5K immediately for fire-fighting duties in the Blue Mountains and the machine available was in fact the same one I used on the building of the Supercross track.

Jed reckons it’s the best little trimming machine you could have on a job like this. The six-way blade, mobility, speed and small size makes this machine ideal for cleaning up the old fire trails, creating fire breaks and following up the D9 as it clears dead undergrowth. In doing so this clears a path for the fire fighters to get access to those really rough areas but, to get the vehicles in, the access has to be ‘vehicular friendly’ … now that is where the D5K shines.

Throw the D5K into the fire line on its own and it’s a standout at any time. Not all areas requiring vehicular access to the fire front are heavily timbered – paddocks with light regrowth, light scrub, fallen branches and thick overgrown grassy areas all need to be trimmed and graded in a professional manner.

It’s one thing thinking you can idle your fire truck over a rough track and into the affected areas but if you need to make a hasty retreat there is no time to idle out … that track had better very accessible at all times; the lives of all the crew members will be depending on it.

In between fighting the fires Jed installed a cage/canopy over the top of the little D5K to protect operators from falling trees.

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The Blue Mountains have seen some of the worst fire conditions ever experienced. Unfortunately not all homes could be saved as the fires raged on

THE PEOPLE

Sometimes the actions of those whom serve the community in a volunteering capacity are rarely acknowledged.

There are months and sometimes years of training, with endless nights of theory and basic training and practicing hose reeling all in preparation for when, not if, the fires arrive.

Faceless men and women, covered in helmets, fire protective masks, heavy breathing apparatus, heavy and cumbersome fire resistant clothing leave their own families and properties to fight and protect others in a sometimes life-or-death situation.

Words of sincere thanks seem nowhere near enough.

None of those brave men and women could take on those dangerous tasks if it were not for the background crews, the administration and co-ordinators, the communications team, the volunteers who arrange, cook, supply and deliver the truck loads of food to keep literally an army of men and women on their feet, the local stores who give freely of services, credit or goods in the most charitable manner and of course the public who hold the fire fighters in the highest of esteem.

The Hartley Rural Fire Service are fortunate to have enormous local public backing, a great in-house support team, great bonding within the team itself and a great leader in its captain Jed Peters.

We are told frequently that most of the volunteer fire fighting services are manned by the older generation, by that I mean those 50 and over. Talk of dropping numbers of volunteers, lack of resources, failure of the younger generation to ‘step up to the plate’ however are not voiced here in Little Hartley.

With numerous non-active and 15 active members, the Hartley Rural Fire Service is comprised of a couple of aged, experienced men backed up by a group of keen young men and women all working together and supporting each other. The banter around the food table after days and weeks of battling the fires was a joy to witness. Tired bodies, bloodshot eyes, blackened faces and hands, sweat-covered and soiled work gear meant nothing as the night fell away.

A quick briefing of what the next day may hold, cheery good byes, hugs all round and they were all off to get as much sleep as possible over the few hours before the sun rose and it started all over again.

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Jed picked up the DK5-2 XL dozer from WesTrac in Lithgow and put it to work on the fire line

IN GOOD HANDS

The night closed for me with the vision of the burned homes I had witnessed earlier in the day and the smell of heavy bushfire smoke hanging low in the night air, blocking any hope of viewing our famed Southern Cross, Jupiter or Venus.

I took time out to reflect on the day, the fires, the devastation, the losses of wildlife, habitat, homes, infrastructure, services and lives and wondered what it must have been like for our forefathers to have to fight fires of this scale without the intervention of water bombing helicopters, aircraft, communications, modern speedy vehicles and of course the fully equipped, powerful earthmoving machinery such as the Cat D5K and the Cat D9R – just some of Peters Earthmoving’s fleet.

Capable men on capable machines certainly have saved many a life during the current bushfires.

Amid the current devastation in which, only a couple of weeks ago, were deemed some of the best tourist destinations in Australia, I can only see the future as being bright.

The bush will grow back after the first bit of rain, houses will be rebuilt, the townspeople will be stronger and if the young bloke Jed Peters is a reflection on Australia’s youth … well we are in pretty good hands.

 

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