RAAF Base East Sale has become a central air hub for the ADF’s Operation Bushfire Assist efforts in Victoria.
CAPTION: Two Australian Army CH-47F Chinooks filled with supplies for isolated areas in Victoria depart RAAF Base East Sale, which has become a key and very busy air-operations hub. Photo by Corporal Nicole Dorrett. Story by Pilot Officer Brent Moloney.
RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20
The base is being used as a staging point to receive flights of evacuees from Mallacoota and outlying areas such as Omeo.
Defence is also providing substantial logistic, catering, accommodation and transport support across the bushfire-affected regions.
No.30 Squadron Commanding Officer Wing Commander James Allen said an Evacuee Reception Centre (ERC) had been established at RAAF Base East Sale to facilitate displaced residents gaining access to Victorian state assistance.
“ADF members are assisting operations at the ERC alongside members of the Australian Red Cross, Victorian Department of Health and Human Services, State Emergency Services, Ambulance Victoria and other support agencies,” Wing Commander Allen said.
“The ADF’s main efforts include the evacuation of vulnerable and affected persons, transportation of firefighting crews into and out of bushfire-affected areas, transportation of essential cargoes and supporting Bairnsdale Airport in their relief efforts.”
Evacuation flights out of Mallacoota Airport are being conducted by ADF aircrews and mobile airlift teams to ferry residents to safety, with more than 500 residents and pets arriving at RAAF Base East Sale so far.
As some fires become classed as under control while others continue to burn out of control, firefighting crews are being airlifted by the ADF to worst-hit areas as needed, allowing fire authorities to efficiently relocate crews.
Vital deliveries of fuel, food, medicine and water are leaving RAAF Base East Sale regularly to assist firefighting efforts and provide comfort and aid to affected residents.
ADF crews have also bolstered efforts at neighbouring Bairnsdale Airport, providing aircraft refuelling, aircraft rescue and firefighting capabilities and a mobile air traffic tower, which has been set up to provide aerodrome flight information services.
Joint ADF efforts out of RAAF Base East Sale include the use of C-27J Spartans, CH-47F Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks and MRH-90 Taipans.
Accommodation at RAAF Base East Sale and logistics support is being provided to civilian agencies assisting the Victorian bushfire effort including the Country Fire Authority, medical staff and veterinarians.
“ADF crews are working continuously in support of the Victorian bushfire efforts, while always keeping devastated bushfire-affected residents in our thoughts,” Wing Commander Allen said.