David Templeman

David Templeman

Minister for the Environment; Climate Change; Peel

John Kobelke

John Kobelke

Minister for Police and Emergency Services; Community Safety; Water Resources; Sport and Recreation

    Water bombing helicopter trial a big boost to fighting bush fires

    14/12/2007 11:44 AM

    Western Australia’s water bombing capacity will be significantly bolstered with a new helicopter landing in Perth this bush fire season.

    Recently used to fight the Californian fires, the Fire King will assist with bush fires across the State, where its significantly greater water capacity and ability to penetrate the tree canopy will be most effective.

    Police and Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke said the Government was committed to ensuring the State’s firefighting equipment was state-of-the-art.

    “It is anticipated this helicopter will make a significant difference this bush fire season, It can carry close to 4,000 litres of water, which is four times the amount the helitacs can carry,” Mr Kobelke said.

    “In addition, the new helicopter will allow a greater ability to attack fires in a sustained fire bombing operation, being able to refill in 30 seconds.

    “The Fire King will support the current firefighting fleet of four helitacs, an air intelligence helicopter and Department of Environment and Conservation’s (DEC) eight fixed-wing water bombers, which are based throughout the South-West.

    “It is estimated that $9million worth of structural assets were saved and a further $41million protected by the helitacs when they were utilised to assisted ground crews at close to 150 bush fires last year.”

    Environment Minister David Templeman said DEC had begun stationing the fixed-wing water bombers throughout the South-West.

    Two fixed-wing bombers came on line in Perth on Monday and bombers were stationed at Bunbury and Albany. Bombers for the south coast and lower Great Southern were expected to be based in Manjimup in the next few weeks.

    Mr Templeman said each set of planes were supported by either a helicopter or one of DEC’s Champion Scout spotter planes which acted as aerial surveillance platforms during bombing operations.

    While the air fleet would greatly enhance the emergency services’ ability to tackle fires, there was only so much that could done to fight a bush fire and it was up to residents to ensure their properties were prepared.

    “We can’t have a firefighter at every door or helitacs protecting every house during a fire,” Mr Kobelke said.

    “Residents need to support their local firefighters by taking time this weekend to clear their property of potential fuel, creating at least a 20m circle of safety and sitting down with their families to decide what action they will take if a bush fire threatens.”

    The State Government has provided $1.3million for the Fire King trail, with support also from the Australian Government through a $900,000 contribution from the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.

    WA’s air fleet will officially become operational next week, however the helitacs have already assisted ground crews at a number of metropolitan bush fires this season.

    Office of the Minister for Police and Emgency Services - 9222 9211
    Office of the Minister for the Environment - 9220 5050