Western Australia | Investment in aerial firefighting fleet pays off

Western Australia | 4 May 2012

Emergency Services Minister Troy Buswell today paid tribute to firefighters and the aerial firefighting fleet for their efforts in protecting the Western Australian community throughout the hot summer months.

“Firefighters responded to more than 4,250 bushfires during a busy bushfire season and the support of the aerial fleet was vital,” Mr Buswell said.  “Major fires came very close to the Perth suburbs of Koondoola, Martin, Piara Waters and Cloverdale, but career and volunteer firefighters did a tremendous job, and with the support of the aerial fleet, they saved homes and protected local communities.

“Regional areas were also hit hard by bushfires, with long running and exhausting fires in the Gascoyne and some of the most destructive fires and testing conditions experienced in the lower South-West.

“The support of the aerial fleet was again crucial this season and the rapid response they provided to incidents enabled ground crews to contain fires earlier.”

The Minister said the State Government had invested nearly $13million this season on supporting WA’s aerial firefighting fleet, which is co-ordinated through the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) and the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

Mr Buswell said the fleet included the new Erickson air crane, two Sikorsky S61 helicopters, four AS350 Squirrel helitacs, a new intelligence gathering helicopter, eight fixed wing fire bomber aircraft and Scout spotter aircraft.

“The rotary fleet was activated 433 times and flew more than 590 hours during the season,” he said. “In total the rotary fleet made 2,555 drops equating to nearly four million litres of water and foam, protecting more than 160 properties during the season.

“The introduction of the Erickson air crane, which can release up to 7,500 litres per drop, was a significant boost to the fleet this season and we will now assess its future role which will depend on seasonal forecasts.

“It is interesting to note that the air crane trialled in WA this fire season flew more operational hours than all of the Eastern States’ air cranes combined.”

The Minister said while major fires would always present a threat in WA, the State Government would ensure that fire and emergency services were properly resourced and equipped to protect local communities.

“There is no doubt that the impact of this bushfire season could have been a lot worse in terms of property loss if it wasn’t for the effective actions of our firefighters with the critical support of the aerial fleet,” he said.

Vital Signs

  • The rotary aerial fleet was activated 433 times and flew a total of 590 hours
  • In total the fleet made 2,555 drops releasing nearly four million litres of water and foam and protected more than 160 homes and properties
  • During the 2011-12 season the aerial fleet included: one Erickson air crane (7,500 litres), two Type 1 firebombers (3,800 litres); four helitac waterbombers (1,000 litres); eight fixed wing (3,000 litres); nine spotter aircraft and an aerial intelligence helicopter

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