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District 5 information sessions on air support
Senior volunteers in CFA’s District 5 have had the opportunity to look at aircraft, talk to pilots and see a load of water dropped as part of an information and training session held the first weekend in December at Hamilton airport.
Morning and afternoon sessions were held on both Saturday and Sunday, and participants could nominate which sessions suited them. About 70 volunteers took the opportunity to learn more about the use of aircraft in firefighting.
The sessions, run by the district’s Hamilton-based Aviation Unit, focused on the operational role of aircraft used for observation, fire attack and control at grass and scrub fires.
Air Attack Supervisor/Operations Officer Paul Marshall said it was great to hear feedback from participants that they would no longer be reluctant to speak to aircraft directly if they needed to.
“They will treat aircraft as another firefighting unit, just like they would a tanker on the ground,” he said.
Paul said that attendees had talked about the structure of the unit and how the roles of Air Observer and Air Attack Supervisor fit into the picture. This gave people the chance to ask questions such as who makes the decision whether to use the aircraft and who decides where loads should be dropped?
District 5 has two water bombers situated at Hamilton, two bombers situated at Casterton and two bombers situated at Stawell. There is also a Heavy Rotary helicopter based at Colac. The firefighting capacity and drop strategies of each unit was looked at during the sessions.
Under ‘pre-determined dispatch’ arrangements, these units are sent to grass and scrub fires as soon as they start, in line with forecast weather and fire conditions.
Leighton Wraith, a volunteer firefighter with Dunkeld brigade and the CFA Air Base Manager, organised the sessions which were attended by group officers, deputy group officers and captains.
Participants had an opportunity to look over the aircraft, talk to the pilot, watch the loading process and see a load dropped.
There was also time for participants to catch up with each other over a BBQ lunch.