After 110 days protecting the lives of Western Australians from the dangers of the summer fire season, the Fire King helicopter is preparing to head home to the United States.
Police and Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke said the State’s trial of the Sikorski 61 Fire King helicopter had proved to be a valuable experience, with the aerial crew assisting at 56 bushfires in WA over the past three months.
“Career and volunteer firefighters, in conjunction with the Fire King and helitacs, have done a wonderful job during some very busy periods over the summer season,” Mr Kobelke said.
“Firefighters turned out to more than 3,300 bush and scrub fires across the State during the fire season, with two thirds of those in the Perth metropolitan area.
“FESA’s aerial resources attended nearly 150 incidents, providing essential support to ground crews at incidents from Cataby in the north to Fitzgerald River National Park in the south.”
The Minister said one notable incident was the Parkerville bush fire, where the Fire King had proved its worth in protecting firefighters, working in conjunction with Helitacs and Fixed Wing water bombers.
“There was potential for houses to be destroyed during that fire, had it not been for the additional 204,000 litres of water dropped by the Fire King,” he said.
“Throughout the bushfire season, the Fire King dropped 2.6 million litres and the four helitacs combined dropped 1.7 million litres of water, equating to 61.5 average backyard swimming pools.
“In addition, the fixed wing water bombers also played a vital role at more than 120 fires across the State, including recent fires at Carabooda and Port Kennedy.
“All of our firefighters, air crew and ground air support personnel have worked tirelessly over the bush fire season and their skill and efforts are appreciated and recognised by the State Government and community.”
The Sikorski 61 Fire King helicopter has a capacity of 3,785 litres of water, in addition to seating of 15 passengers enabling rapid and remote deployment of firefighters and incident management personnel, followed by water bombing suppression activities.
Funding of the Fire King trial was through National Aerial Fire Fighting Centre, with Commonwealth Government funding of $917,000 for half the fixed costs and the State Government covering the remainder of the fixed costs, plus all the operating costs of about $400,000.
With the recent rainfalls across the State and drop in maximum temperatures, the risk of major fire has dramatically reduced with the major fire hazards now transitioning from outdoors to inside the home.
While the heat of summer has passed, appliances such as heaters and clothes dryers are now in use, so it is important that all appliances are checked before use and all care is taken to reduce the risk of fire in the home.
Tragically, seven people lost their lives in residential fires in WA last year, but working smoke alarms, properly maintained appliances and a home escape plan can not only reduce the risk, but provide the early warning and extra time needed to escape safely.
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