CFA doubles number of trained personnel in bomber refuelling

We’re all aware of the vital role that is played by aircraft in fighting fires during bushfire season. 


But it’s also worth noting the importance of the volunteers who are stationed at airbases across the state, ready to reload these aircraft when necessary.  

In the 2017/18 financial year, CFA doubled the amount of people within its ranks who are able to refuel bombers. 

A total of 67 people completed the bomber reloading training, taking the overall number of competent personnel to 126. The training teaches ‘hot loading’ - refuelling fixed aircraft bombers with water, foam or retardant while the aircraft engine is still running.

The reloading is vitally important in areas where CFA are responsible for manning airbases, which includes Horsham, Edenhope, Nhill, Portland, Hamilton, Colac, Lethbridge, Ballarat, Tyabb, Latrobe Valley. Further training will take place this year to be able to man Ouyen, Hopetoun, Warracknabeal and Corryong airbases.

The significant increase in trained personnel is in no small part due to the work of Wildfire Instructor Graeme Briggs, who previously spent the better half of a decade with Aviation Services Unit (ASU).

Graeme came on board with CFA in December 2016. Previous to this, districts were required to organise this training themselves, often finding difficulty in sourcing external agency instructors to participate.

Graeme has been able to not only deliver the training, but also instruct Wildfire Instructors to deliver the training themselves.

 “The majority of those doing the training are older members who have gotten to the point where they’re not keen to be on the back of trucks,” Graeme said.

“This is a perfect way for them to stay involved.   

“It’s great that they want to keep helping out, and it’s extremely important as well”.

“It turns 20 minutes into two minutes in terms of changing over, and on the fireground, that’s everything.”

Luke Patterson, Aviation Operations Officer, says Graeme has been invaluable since joining CFA.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to acquire Instructor Graeme, who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in operating airbases in his previous employment with DELWP and ASU.” Luke said.

“Graeme is working with regions to increase local trainer and assessor pools with the support of the Aviation Services Unit (ASU).

“This will allow for continual training and skills maintenance to our regional and rural airbase crews which in essence will improve fixed winged bomber turnaround times to local incidents, helping to protect life and property.”

The number of trained bomber reloaders is expected to increase significantly again over the summer, with Graham Hill and Luke Griffiths of Districts 17 and 5 respectively, also now able to deliver the training.

Those who are interested in completing the training should get in touch with their local district headquarters. 

Author: Tim McGlone