Sky-high firefighting gets a boost

CFA Firefighters training in reloading operations.

By Michael Doran

With another dangerous fire season approaching, the State Government announced a $29.9 million boost for aerial firefighting resources.

This will upgrade existing aircraft, expand water-bombing capability and increase water capacity.

“In the Yarra Valley, our helicopters will again be located at Maroondah Reservoir, Olinda and Moorabbin,” CFA District 13 operations manager David Renkin said.

“We are well supported by the heavy bombers at Moorabbin and Essendon and the other aircraft strategically placed around the state.”

A suite of 49 aircraft can be deployed during disasters, including two air-tankers of 15,000 litre capacity and two air-cranes of 7500 litres.

The firefighting fleet is a mix of fire-bombing helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, with the remaining aircraft providing supervision and intelligence-gathering support.

In a first for Australia, two aviation fire-bombing providers based in Victoria have been approved to conduct night-time operations this summer season, after completing successful trials earlier in the year.

The CFA also announced a doubling of personnel trained to reload the firefighting aircraft.

There are now more than 120 personnel who have completed bomber reloading training, which includes ‘hot loading’ – refuelling aircraft with water, foam or retardant while the aircraft is still running.

“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,” CFA wildfire instructor Graeme Briggs said.

“It’s great 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 fire ground that’s everything.”

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