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Monday, April 12, 2021

Firefighting choppers land in the ACT ahead of peak season

Three firefighting helicopters have arrived in the ACT ahead of the high risk half of the season in the region, and in a statement today Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman said the same aircraft were crucial assets during last season’s inferno. 

“Last bushfire season, these helicopters were invaluable and played an integral role in firefighting operations in our region,” he said.

Two medium sized helicopters, Helitac 274 and 275, will be available to perform a range of tasks including waterbombing and winching firefighters into remote areas. 

The third aircraft, an intelligence gathering Firebird 100, is a roving set of eyes for decision makers which uses infrared cameras to monitor the firefront and send footage back to base. 

ACT Rural Fire Service (ACTRFS) acting chief officer Rohan Hunt said it aided firefighting efforts both in the air and on the ground. 

“The 360‑degree video or thermal camera can quickly relay vision or incident data directly to Headquarters, Fire Control Centres and Incident Management Teams,” he said. 

“Having the ability to relay vision direct from the fire ground is imperative to ensure we are deploying appropriate resources where they are needed and issuing correct warnings for communities.”

The Firebird 100 was first utilised in the ACT in 2018 and can also assist with waterbombing and coordination of aircrafts and firefighters. 

Mr Gentleman said the helicopters will remain at the ACTRFS Hume Helicopter Base until late March, a date which can be extended should weather conditions continue to pose a fire risk to the ACT. 

The firefighting aircraft can be deployed from the helibase in Hume within 15 minutes and will also be available to assist surrounding regions. 

Due to welcome rainfall, the official launch of the ACT bushfire season on 1 November 2020 was one month later than the traditional start date of 1 October. 

As reported at the time, the ACT Emergency Services Agency warned against complacency given abundant grass growth could increase the risk of fast-moving grass fires over the course of the summer.

ACT residents are reminded to Be Emergency Ready and to complete a Survival Plan via the ESA website.

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