NZ Defence firefighters on Oz bushfire front lines

New Zealand Defence Force firefighters are currently working in Australia to help control bushfires spreading across New South Wales and Queensland.

CAPTION: A New Zealand Defence Force firefighter works to control bush fires near Wauchope, New South Wales. NZDF photo.

Three fresh firefighters, two from the New Zealand Army and one from the Royal New Zealand Air Force, joined four others already in Australia on the weekend.

Four NZDF firefighters were already in New South Wales, based near Wauchope, helping to control fires, carrying out fire patrols and performing back-burning operations to stop fires from spreading.

The three fresh firefighters were deployed to Queensland, where there are about 60 active bushfires and about 180,000 hectares have been burnt.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand requested assistance from the New Zealand Defence Force following discussions with their counterparts in Australia.

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Officer Commanding the NZ Army’s firefighting unit Major Kenny Long said the three additional firefighters departed on Friday for Queensland and were now based near Toowoomba.

Meanwhile, the Australian Defence Force allowed none of its personnel to deploy to the fire front citing OH&S-compliance issue – opting instead to support the firefighting effort through logistics chains, by providing transport, accomodation, catering and base facilities to firefighting organisations.

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In a statement, Defence said…

  • The ADF is not trained, equipped or certified to undertake ground-based or aerial bush firefighting and does not get involved in the direct act of fighting bushfires outside Defence property.
  • The Work Health Safety Act 2011 (Commonwealth) (WHS Act) limits the range of tasks that can be undertaken by Defence personnel, which includes the fighting of bushfires.
  • The state and territory governments have primary responsibility for the protection of life, property and the environment, and for coordinating and planning emergency responses or recovery actions in disaster-affected areas within their jurisdiction.
  • The ADF is able to support the states and territories, within resource limitations, in accordance with Defence Assistance to the Civil Community arrangements as part of a whole-of-government response, where state or territory capacity or resources do not exist, or are not available in sufficient time.
  • Defence has arrangements in place to call out ADF reservists if required to supplement regular personnel.
  • Defence is working with Emergency Management Australia to identify what other ADF capabilities, such as aviation, logistics, transport, engineering and accommodation support can be provided to aid firefighting efforts in eastern Australia.
  • Defence is postured to provide further airlift support and is prepared to provide assistance in areas such as aerial fire reconnaissance, logistical support (ground transport, accommodation, meals etc.) and engineering (field work) upon request from state or territory governments.

 

ADF SUPPORT:

Other, non-firefighting support to the firefighting effort is extensive…

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been working with Emergency Management Australia to assist with firefighting efforts in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia since November 8.

Defence established liaison officers in the State Disaster Coordination Centres (SDCC) in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia when the SDCC ‘stood up’. The SDCC in Victoria and South Australia have ‘stood down’.

In the next 24 hours, the following additional support is planned:

  • From November 26 to December 3, Army will provide New South Wales Rural Fire Service with ground logistic support for the movement of vehicles, stores and equipment in the Wauchope, Glen Innes, Kempsey, Casino and Hawkesbury areas.

In the past 24 hours, the ADF provided the following support:

New South Wales, Defence Aid to the Civil Community (DACC) 4 (standing arrangements with NSW Government)

  • New South Wales Rural Fire Service has permanently based multiple large aerial tanker and spotter aircraft at RAAF Base Richmond.

New South Wales, DACC 2 (at request of state government)

  • From November 17 – December 1, Army is supplying personnel to prepare and cook three meals a day for 250 firefighters at the Rural Fire Service staging ground in the Northern Rivers Region, NSW. This support is for 14 days to provide respite for the volunteers who have been providing meals.

New South Wales, DACC 1 (through local requests)

  • From November 12, the Lismore Depot of the 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, has been available to provide accommodation and catering support to firefighters from the Victorian Country Fire Authority.

Queensland, DACC 2 (at request of state government)

  • Defence has enhanced its planning and liaison support to emergency services, including embedding planners into Queensland State Disaster Coordination Centres.
  • From November 22-27, Army is providing logistics support to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services incident control centre at Borneo Barracks, Cabarlah.

Queensland, DACC 1 (through local requests)

  • Defence is hosting refuelling assets from Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to provide aircraft refuelling at Kokoda Barracks, Canungra. This support is on an as-required basis.

Since November 8, Defence has provided the following support to firefighting efforts:

  • A Royal Australian Air Force 737 Boeing business jet transported ACT Rural Fire Service firefighters from Canberra to Port Macquarie on November 8.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Adelaide to Port Macquarie on November 9.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Hobart to Port Macquarie on November 10.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Essendon and Mildura to Armidale on November 12.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft transported 150 firefighters and their personal equipment from Melbourne Airport to Sydney Airport on November 14.
  • Two Royal Australian Air Force KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft transported 258 firefighters and their personal equipment from Sydney Airport to Melbourne Airport on November 15.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported 165 firefighters and their equipment, using two flights, from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour on November 17.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported 130 firefighters and their equipment from RAAF Base Richmond to Melbourne. The same aircraft then transported an additional 130 firefighters and their equipment from Coffs Harbour to Melbourne on November 18.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported 130 firefighters from Melbourne to RAAF Base Richmond on November 19.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft transported 140 firefighters and their equipment from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour on November 20.
  • A Royal Australian Air Force C-130J Hercules aircraft transported 167 firefighters and their equipment from Coffs Harbour to Melbourne on November 21.
  • On November 18, 21 and 22, Army supported Queensland Fire and Emergency Services helicopter operations at Borneo Barracks, near Toowoomba. This support is now complete.
  • From November 11-13, Singleton Army Barracks provided accommodation and catering support to about 200 firefighters from the Victorian Country Fire Authority.
  • From November 12-14, a Royal Australian Navy and Australian Army aviation liaison capability worked within the New South Wales Rural Fire Service State Operations Centre to ensure Australian Defence Force air support was appropriately coordinated. This support is now complete.
  • From November 12-14, two MRH-90 Taipan helicopters from the Royal Australian Navy and two S-70 Black Hawk helicopters from the Australian Army provided movements for Rural Fire Service strike teams and, if required, the rescue of civilian personnel. This support is now complete.
  • From November 12-13, the Royal Australian Navy provided two MH-60R Seahawk helicopters to fly night missions from Sydney and Coffs Harbour to facilitate the operation of Rural Fire Service air observers. Two EC135 helicopters continued support on November 14. This support is now complete.
  • Two EC135 helicopters from the Royal Australian Navy and two S-70 Black Hawk helicopters from the Australian Army flew in support of New South Wales Rural Fire Service impact assessments on November 14. This support is now complete.
  • Australian Defence Force personnel from Kokoda Barracks, Canungra, and the 7th Brigade, Brisbane, provided engineering support to assist Queensland Fire and Emergency Services to clean up fire breaks near Beechmont. This support is now complete.
  • From November 12-13, Kokoda Army Barracks, Canungra, provided evening meals for 40 firefighters.
  • On November 14, RAAF Base Pearce provided support to aerial firefighting aircraft from the Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services under DACC 4 arrangements.
  • From November 12-16, RAAF Base Williamtown provided refuelling and water re-supply support to a large aerial tanker from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
  • From November 13-17, Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopters supported Queensland Fire and Emergency Services conducting night fire mapping – on November 17, an Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter provided support to search for isolated persons in a high-threat fire area. The individuals were safely recovered by Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
  • On November 18, the 7th Brigade provided a platoon to support Queensland Police and Queensland State Emergency Services to search for a missing person around Mount Glorious, Queensland. The missing person was located on the morning of November 18.
  • From November 18-19, the Army’s Borneo Barracks near Toowoomba established a helicopter-landing site, overnight parking and refuelling capability for firefighting and support to civilian rotary-wing aircraft.
  • From November 20-21, two Australian Army MRH-90 Taipan helicopters conducted night fire mapping in south-east Queensland in support of the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services.
  • On November 21, a New South Wales Rural Fire Service large aerial tanker was refuelled at RAAF Base Edinburgh after a mission was completed in South Australia.
  • From November 13-23, RAAF Base Richmond provided accommodation and catering support for between 150 and 300 firefighters, as well as providing workshop/maintenance hangars for up to 50 fire appliances and support vehicles.

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Brian Hartigan

Managing Editor Contact Publishing Pty Ltd PO Box 3091 Minnamurra NSW 2533 AUSTRALIA

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