Western Australia’s expansive aerial firefighting fleet is poised for summer, with 29 aircraft including a helicopter equipped with a new generation of infrared sensors to rapidly locate and map bushfires.
Assistant Minister for Home Affairs Senator the Hon. Linda Reynolds, who has responsibility for Commonwealth disaster assistance, today joined Western Australian Minister for Emergency Services the Hon. Francis Logan and Western Australian Minister for Environment the Hon. Stephen Dawson to launch the fleet at Jandakot Airport.
The fleet includes the heavy hitting Erickson Aircrane, Georgia Peach, which returns to WA after fighting horrific fires in Greece.
Assistant Minister Reynolds said the national aerial firefighting arrangements were a tremendous validation of the benefits of national cooperation.
“The national aerial firefighting fleet offers greater protection to Australian communities and essential infrastructure threatened by increasingly frequent and severe bushfires,” Assistant Minister Reynolds said.
“Most importantly, the shared investment by the Australian and state and territory governments will continue to save lives and property.
“This summer, the Australian Government has boosted their annual $14.8 million investment in aerial firefighting to nearly $26 million to ensure additional resources are available to firefighters.
“A sophisticated fleet of more than 140 specialised, highly mobile aircraft are positioned around the country to protect our communities ahead of some of the worst bushfire conditions Australia has seen in a decade.”
Minister Logan said the aerial fleet plays an essential role in supporting firefighting efforts across Western Australia.
“The aerial fleet has the ability to quickly get to fires and access areas that sometimes can be difficult to get to by ground crews,” Minister Logan said.
“This season we will have enhanced mapping that will allow crews to see through smoke, detect embers and hotspots and map in real-time, which will be a real game changer for firefighters.
“However there will never be as many helicopters or fire trucks as there are houses, so we are asking the Western Australia community to be prepared and take five minutes to make a bushfire plan at firechat.wa.gov.au.”
Minister Dawson said bushfires were now an inevitable part of the Western Australian summer.
“For more than 20 years the State Government’s aerial suppression measures have been protecting life and property from the devastating effects of bushfire,” Minister Dawson said.
“Using aerial and ground resources, the State Government continues to make significant efforts to reduce the amount of fuel firefighters have to confront in a bushfire.
“Since 1 July 2018, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions has undertaken almost 90,000 hectares of prescribed burning across its three south-west forest regions. This builds on the 218,000 hectares of burning it achieved in 2017-18.
“I would like to extend my sincere thanks on behalf of the people of WA to firefighters from DBCA’s Parks and Wildlife Service, DFES, local brigades and volunteers. Your efforts are greatly appreciated, thank you for helping keep our community safe.'