Major increase in Defence bushfire-fighting support

ADF is set to inject a significant manpower and equipment boost to the bushfire-fighting effort, at the request of the Victorian government.

CAPTION: Royal Australian Navy aircrewman Leading Seaman Ben Nixon of 808 Squadron assesses a NSW national-parks bushfire from his MRH90 Taipan helicopter. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Kelvin Hockey.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

Despite their own home base being partially ablaze, HMAS Albatross' 808 Squadron were hard at work today assisting with NSW bushfire-fighting efforts – as they have been for weeks.
Despite their own home base being partially ablaze, HMAS Albatross’ 808 Squadron was hard at work again today, assisting with NSW bushfire-fighting efforts – as they have been for weeks.

Black Hawks from Sydney and a Chinook helicopter from Townsville are moving south in preparation to rescue stranded residents in towns and hamlets cut off by fires.

Royal Australian Navy ships are also moving to an area off East Gippsland in preparation for evacuations.

HMAS Choules out of Sydney and MV Sycamore out of Jervis Bay both have significant capacity to land helicopters, and send boats ashore.

Defence Minister Lynda Reynolds confirmed the deployment via Twitter just after 5pm this evening.

I’ve spoken with Scott Morrison and authorised ADF to deploy extra assets to the Victorian fires,” Minister Reynolds said.

“Three helicopters and one aircraft will fly to East Sale, HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore will sail to East Gippsland, [and] a Joint Task Force has been stood up with Army personnel and liason officers.”

CONTACT has also been told that MRH 90 ‘Hat-Trick’ will be embarked on HMAS Choules when she sails.

HMAS Choules can accommodate two large helicopters and around 700 people, while MV Sycamore is manned and equipped as the Navy’s maritime helicopter landing training vessel and, as such, can accept helicopter landings and accomodate 100 or so visitors.

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Recent ADF support:

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

  • Large Aerial Tanker: RAAF Base Richmond is providing refuelling and support to operating services for the NSW Rural Fire Service multiple Large Aerial Tanker and spotter aircraft that are permanently based at RAAF Base Richmond.
  • Support to aviation operations: Since November 29, HMAS Albatross has assisted with water refuelling and retardant loading of aircraft fighting the Currowan fires from Naval Air Station Nowra. Seven NSW Rural Fire Service aircraft continue to operate from Nowra, comprising four fixed-wing and three helicopters.

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

  • Contingency air movements: From November 8 to February 1, Air Force is providing contingency airlift support to move large groups of firefighters and their equipment between interstate locations as required.
  • Catering: From November 17 to January 13, 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.
  • Transport and logistics: From November 26 to January 13, Army is providing the NSW Rural Fire Service with ground logistic support for the movement of vehicles, stores and equipment in the Glen Innes, Casino, Wollondilly and Hawkesbury areas.
  • Accommodation for firefighters: From December 27 to January 29, Defence is providing accommodation and catering support for up to 90 firefighters at HMAS Albatross.
  • Accommodation and support to aviation operations: From December 3 to January 26, Army is providing logistics support at Marrangaroo Training Area to NSW Rural Fire Service helicopter assets and personnel. Additionally, accommodation facilities for up to 50 Rural Fire Service personnel are being provided on site until January 26, including the use of the mess kitchen facilities by civilian caterers.
  • Support to aviation operations: Until January 13, 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, will support the Rural Fire Service Casino flight line with loading of fire retardant at Casino airport, reducing aircraft turnaround times and enabling more sorties to be flown in the effort to defend the townships in the area.
  • Support to aviation operations: From December 21 to January 3, RAAF Base Richmond is providing support in the form of one Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting Striker, and crew of two to three personnel, to provide fire protection (overwatch) to NSW Rural Fire Service aircraft conducting hot refuelling at Picton in south-west Sydney, freeing up a Rural Fire Service vehicle to fight fires.
  • Liaison officers: From December 27-30, 14 ADF personnel have been deployed within NSW Rural Fire Service incident management teams at 14 Fire Control Centres throughout the state. The personnel will provide specialist advice on possible additional ADF support under DACC arrangements and scope options for ADF support during initial recovery operations after the bushfire threat has passed.
  • Helicopter support: From ​​​​​​December 30 to January 2, Army and Navy will provide a combination of MRH-90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and EC-135 helicopters for fire mapping, surveillance, and search and rescue operations supporting the NSW Rural Fire Service throughout the Hunter, Greater Sydney and Illawarra regions. An additional helicopter is being provided under DACC 1 arrangements to support possible evacuation operations.

New South Wales, DACC 1 (through local requests)

  • Accommodation: From November 12, the Lismore Depot of the 41st Battalion, Royal New South Wales Regiment, has been tasked to provide accommodation and catering support to firefighters from outside the region if requested.

Queensland, DACC 1 (through local requests)

  • Support to aviation operations: 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.

Victoria, DACC 2 (at request of state government)

  • Support to aviation operations: From December 20 to January 2, a pressurised fuel tanker from RAAF Base East Sale is supporting the operation of a civilian firebombing helicopter from Bairnsdale Airport.
  • Embedded personnel: Since December 29, Joint Operations Support Staff-Victoria personnel have been embedded in the Victorian Government State Control Centre due to State Tier 3 Red notification for forecast catastrophic fire conditions .

South Australia, DACC 1 (through local requests)

Support to aviation operations: From December 28, RAAF Base Edinburgh is providing refuelling and water re​​-supply support to a Large Aerial Tanker while it is supporting the South Australian Country Fire Service.

Embedded personnel: On December 30, Joint Operations Support Staff-South Australia personnel were embedded in the South Australian State Emergency Centre (SEC) due to activation of the SEC as a result of fire conditions, including a declaration of three catastrophic fire regions.

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From November 8 to February 1, the Royal Australian Air Force is providing contingency airlift support to move large groups of firefighters and their equipment between interstate locations: ​​​​​

  • A RAAF 737 Boeing Business Jet transported ACT Rural Fire Service firefighters from Canberra to Port Macquarie on November 8.
  • A RAAF C-130J aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Adelaide to Port Macquarie on November 9.
  • A RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Hobart to Port Macquarie on November 10.
  • A RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft transported firefighters and their equipment from Essendon and Mildura to Armidale on November 12.
  • A RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft transported 150 firefighters and their personal equipment from Melbourne Airport to Sydney Airport on November 14.
  • Two RAAF KC-30A multi-role tanker transport aircraft transported 258 firefighters and their personal equipment from Sydney Airport to Melbourne Airport on November 15.
  • A RAAF C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported 165 firefighters and their equipment, using two flights, from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour on November 17.
  • A RAAF 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 RAAF C-17A Globemaster aircraft transported 130 firefighters from Melbourne to RAAF Base Richmond on November 19.
  • A RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft transported 140 firefighters and their equipment from Melbourne to Coffs Harbour on November 20.
  • A RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft transported 167 firefighters and their equipment from Coffs Harbour to Melbourne on November 21.
  • A RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft transported 108 firefighters and their equipment from Coffs Harbour to Melbourne on November 24.

Other support has entailed:

  • On November 18, 21 and 22, Army supported Queensland Fire and Emergency Services helicopter operations at Borneo Barracks, near Toowoomba.
  • 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 Navy and Army aviation liaison capability worked within the NSW Rural Fire Service State Operations Centre to ensure ADF air support was appropriately coordinated.
  • From November 12-14, two MRH-90 Taipan helicopters from the Navy and two S-70 Black Hawk helicopters from the Army provided movements for Rural Fire Service strike teams and, if required, the rescue of civilian personnel.
  • From November 12-13, the 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.
  • Two EC135 helicopters from the Navy and two S-70 Black Hawk helicopters from the Army flew in support of NSW Rural Fire Service impact assessments on November 14.
  • ADF 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.
  • 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 arrangements.
  • From November 12-16, RAAF Base Williamtown provided refuelling and water re-supply support to a Large Aerial Tanker from the NSW 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, a Tiger provided support to search for isolated persons in a high-threat fire area. Queensland Fire and Emergency Services safely recovered the individuals.
  • From November 13-23, RAAF Base Richmond provided accommodation and catering support for varying numbers of between 150 and 300 firefighters, as well as providing workshop/maintenance hangars for up to 50 fire appliances and support vehicles.
  • 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 NSW Rural Fire Service Large Aerial Tanker was refuelled at RAAF Base Edinburgh after a mission was completed in South Australia.
  • From November 22-27, Army provided logistics support to the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services incident control centre, hosted on Borneo Barracks, Cabarlah.
  • On November 26, RAAF Base Gingin provided 18,900 litres of water to two water bombers fighting a fire in the vicinity of Yanchep.
  • From November 26 to December 21, Army provided NSW Rural Fire Service with ground logistic support for the movement of vehicles, stores and equipment in Wauchope.
  • From December 2-6 and December 10-11, Army provided rotary-wing support to the NSW Rural Fire Service from Holsworthy Barracks to support search and rescue and firefighting intelligence.
  • On December 3-4, HMAS Albatross was used to provide catering and accommodation for the NSW Rural Fire Service at Naval Air Station Nowra.
  • On December 4, RAAF Base Pearce provided 12,000 litres of water to two water bombers fighting fires in the vicinity of the City of Swan, Perth.
  • On December 9, ADF Joint Operations Support Staff-Victoria personnel were established in the Victorian Government State Control Centre following State Tier 3 Red notification for forecast catastrophic fire conditions.
  • From December 10-11, a Navy helicopter provided support to the the NSW Rural Fire Service for 24 hours to fly day and night missions from the Naval Air Station Nowra to facilitate the operation of Rural Fire Service-trained air observers
  • On December 15, RAAF Base Pearce provided support to aerial firefighting aircraft from the Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services under DACC arrangements. Some 60,000 litres of water and 17,870 litres of fuel was provided for the firefighting efforts in the vicinity of Collie and 18,000 litres was provided for firefighting efforts in the vicinity of Yanchep.
  • On December 16, RAAF Base Pearce provided support to aerial firefighting aircraft from the Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services. About 3000 litres of water was provided to fight a fire in the vicinity of Brand Highway.
  • From December 19-23, two Navy helicopters operated from Nowra to provide daytime search and rescue, as well as night-time fire mapping and support missions to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
  • On December 20, support was provided from RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, to refuel two Large Aerial Tankers fighting fires near Cudlee Creek and Munno Para. This support continued on the morning of 21 December.
  • From December 20-23, an additional Joint Operation Support Staff Liaison Officer was deployed to the South Australia Country Fire Service Incident Management Team at Mount Barker to provide direct advice.
  • On December 21-22, RAAF Base Williamtown provided fuel and movements support for two NSW Rural Fire Service fire scanner aircraft under a standing DACC 4 Memorandum of Understanding request.

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Brian Hartigan

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

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