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Aircraft first on scene
Firebombing aircraft have arrived ahead of trucks at 15 fires this season under a new system which sees planes and helicopters immediately dispatched to grass or bush fires on high risk days.
** Joint media release with Department of Environment Land Water and Planning **
In the past, aircraft in Victoria could only be called in to a fire once ground crews had arrived.
Fire agencies estimate that aircraft are arriving to fires around 20 minutes earlier under the new system – known as ‘pre-determined dispatch’; triggered on 51 occasions so far this season.
Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) Chief Fire Officer Alan Goodwin said the idea behind the pre-determined system was to get aircraft in the sky as quickly as possible to provide strong first attack and support firefighters on the ground.
“So far this season we’ve seen a number of fires with serious potential to impact communities that were pulled up and contained due to the work of aircraft at that critical early stage,” Mr Goodwin said.
CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson said it was important to get the message out to landholders with private firefighting equipment that aircraft might be arriving before trucks.
“Our firefighters are briefed about coordinating their attack on the fire with aircraft, but we are concerned that landowners tackling fires on their own properties might not know to move away when an aircraft is approaching to drop a load of water or retardant.
“Many farmers are fully equipped to fight fires; indeed it is a legislated requirement that landowners take reasonable steps to stop the spread of unplanned fire on their property.
“The difference is now there might be aircraft circling ahead rather than a fire truck approaching and directing them.
“Once aircraft are moving in the safest thing to do is to move away from the fire’s edge, so that pilots can get on with the job.”
Mr Ferguson said that pilots must ensure that an area is completely clear of people before making a drop. “Pilots will always endeavour to do a dummy run first where they fly the path they are going to take,” he said.
“Most are equipped with an audible siren that will sound as they are coming in on their actual run as a final advice to anyone in the vicinity.”
A varied fleet of 20 planes and helicopters is available for dispatch under the pre-determined system. Strategically based at 15 different locations around Victoria, each aircraft can potentially be dispatched anywhere in the State based on need.
Fast facts – Victoria’s fleet
- Aircraft are used to support on-ground firefighters and are a joint resource among fire agencies.
- Victoria’s fleet of 46 fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters can be moved around the state to where they are needed depending on fire activity
- A range of different types of aircraft provide maximum flexibility for Victoria’s varied terrain – the make-up of our fleet has been carefully designed through the national Fire and Emergency Aviation Capability Management Framework.