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CO reviews water bombing strategy

Victoria’s top emergency managers flew to Hamilton Airport last week to discuss a proposal to alter the water bombing strategy for the coming fire season.

Victorian Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley, CFA Chief Officer Euan Ferguson, and Department of Environment and Primary Industries Fire Chief Alan Goodwin discussed the changes with a local group last Friday.

Story from the Hamilton Spectator

The group included businessmen, farmers, frontline firefighters and water bombing pilots who have lobbied the State Government to relocate, to Hamilton, the headquarters for aerial bushfire response in the Grampians. Members Simon Armytage and Don Robertson were in the group.

During the February fires, air operations were based at Stawell, which was further away from the fire front and required aircraft to make a steep initial ascent to clear the mountain range.

The group's spokesman, Leighton Wraith, said the group was pleased with the meeting. "We are delighted that the state's most senior decision makers have decided to meet with us on their way through to South Australia," he said.

Mr Wraith described the meeting as an "exchange of ideas to further enhance the capability and capacity to respond to wildfire situations in the south west”.

The group has estimated the cost of fighting the Grampians complex and Victoria Valley fires in February this year at about $25 million.

An alternative plan was put forward which calls for a new water and fire retardant storage facility to be built at Hamilton Airport to cut down on flying distances and make it easier for planes to reach altitude over The Grampians. The central argument is that a Hamilton water bombing headquarters would significantly reduce the time taken to control a future Grampians bushfire.

The group's estimated costs for the Hamilton upgrade are a fraction of the budget for fighting a prolonged Western District bushfire.

Last Updated: 06 September 2013