Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20 is currently the Australian Defence Force’s main effort, with several thousand full-time and reserve personnel providing direct support.
CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers from the 7th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, move on foot into the isolated community of Gipsy Point, north-west of Mallacoota, Victoria, to provide health support. Photo by Major Gavin Cole.
RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20
Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Adelaide continues to provide relief and evacuation support to Eden on the NSW south coast, with HMAS Choules expected to return to Mallacoota with stores today, including 3000 litres of beer for the pub, according to some reports.
Royal Australian Air Force C-27J Spartan operations in support of Mallacoota are continuing from East Sale, with 5400 litres of diesel and 800 litres of petrol delivered yesterday.
ADF pastoral care and mental-health support has deployed to Kangaroo Island.
Aircraft are being positioned at RAAF Base Edinburgh as a contingency in the event an evacuation order is given by civilian authorities on Kangaroo Island.
Two Singapore Armed Forces CH-47 Chinooks have deployed to RAAF Base East Sale.
Two Australian Army helicopters and one Royal New Zealand Air Force NH-90 helicopter are at Luscombe Airfield, Holsworthy, in Sydney’s south, ready to support the greater Sydney area from today.
Papua New Guinea has offered, and Australia have accepted, additional engineer support in the form of around 100 PNGDF personnel.
There are currently more than 1900 reservists attached to the three joint task forces deployed in support of Operation Bushfire Assist. This number is growing daily.
View Major General Jake Ellwood’s daily media briefing for 10 January, by clicking on the image.
Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646
- JTF establishment: JTF 646 is based on Army’s 4th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF.
- Central hub:
- RAAF Base East Sale is the central hub for the Defence response in southern areas, and is being used as a staging point to receive the flights evacuating people from Mallacoota.
- As of January 10, there is ongoing support tasking with Incident Control Centres in the Alpine and Coastal regions. This includes fire protection work at indigenous cultural sites in the vicinity of Koetong with Parks Victoria, and clearance of the Princes Highway.
- On January 10, an evacuation order was given for the Victorian Alpine region by civilian authorities, with JTF 646 in support.
- As of January 10, relief centre tasks will continue in Omeo, Swifts Creek, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Mallacoota.
- On January 9, interagency teams continued route clearance tasks north of Bairnsdale.
- Working with state authorities, Defence contacted 18 cut-off communities, flying in emergency food, water, fuel and medical supplies as required. Eight communities were visited on January 5, and another 10 on January 6
- On January 6, the JTF commenced redistribution of forces in the northern (Alpine) and southern (Coastal) areas of operation, in order to ensure both Army Support Battalions are force-assigned and capable to undertake a variety of support tasks.
- On January 7, the JTF commenced the preparation of a staging area for about 100 international firefighters In the vicinity of Omeo.
- A plan has been finalised to support the Department of Agriculture in dealing with deceased livestock.
- Navy support:
- On January 9, HMAS Choules loaded stores in Western Port and will return to Mallacoota on January 10.
- On January 7, HMAS Choules embarked 280 people from Mallacoota for evacuation to HMAS Cerberus. The ship also delivered stores and emergency services’ vehicles to Mallacoota.
- On January 5, HMAS Choules arrived in Western Port with about 1100 evacuees. On January 6, Choulesreturned to Mallacoota to unload diesel fuel and a fuel management team to sustain the operation of generators providing electricity to Mallacoota.
- Helicopter support:
- Two S-70A Black Hawk helicopters and an MRH-90 Taipan helicopter are based out of RAAF Base East Sale and have been involved in transporting firefighters around the fire grounds, evacuating injured and vulnerable people from hazardous locations, and delivering food, water and critical equipment to locations where it is needed.
- As of January 9, hay bales and fodder were being moved into key locations.
- As at 8 January, four CH-47F Chinook helicopters are operating from RAAF Base East Sale to provide support to firefighting operations as well as provide humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.
- On January 7, the ADF recommenced aviation activities, including the evacuation of personnel from Mallacoota, provision of satellite phones to cut-off communities, and distribution of stores to isolated areas.
- On January 7, aircraft reached Bemm River and Genoa and delivered food, water, medical and fuel supplies.
- Ongoing rotary-wing tasks are to: provide communication access to Tamboon, Tamboon south, Combienbar, Club Terrace, Gypsy Point and Bemm River; insert forestry personnel onto Gabo Island; provide a diesel resupply to generator at Genoa; and move doctors and other medical professionals to Mallacoota; perform lift tasks in Omeo, Swifts Creek, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Mallacoota.
- UAS support: Army deployed a Small Unmanned Aerial System (Wasp) to RAAF Base East Sale on January 6 to conduct reconnaissance operations in support of JTF 646.
- Mobility operations: The JTF is providing engineer personnel and equipment to supplement state capabilities to clear and reopen roads in fire-affected areas as well as general engineering tasks to remove debris from public areas and clear fire breaks and fire trails. Clearing operations have resulted in the successful reopening of the Great Alpine Road. From January 9, engineer support is being provided to Benalla and Ovens, and engineers are undertaking route clearance tasks along the coast.
- Damage assessments: The ADF is providing support to Victorian authorities to undertake rapid damage assessments in regional Victoria. The ADF is enhancing the search and rescue assessment capacity with additional vehicles and drivers.
- Air Force support: Air traffic controllers are providing a flight information service at the Bairnsdale Airport to support local authorities to manage the high volume of air traffic at the airport.
- Fixed-wing support:
- On January 9, C-27J Spartan operations in support of Mallacoota continued with seven sorties from East Sale with cargo delivered and evacuees flown out. The same day, 5400 litres of diesel and 800 litres of unleaded petrol were confirmed to have been delivered to Mallacoota.
- From January 8, a P-8A Poseidon is conducting reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas and the following aircraft are conducting support flights: two C-17A Globemasters from RAAF Base Amberley, two C-130J Hercules from RAAF Base Richmond and three C-27J Spartans from RAAF Base East Sale.
- On January 5, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft began route reconnaissance from Sale to Mallacoota to assess engineering requirements. This aircraft is continuing reconnaissance of fire grounds, operating from RAAF Base Edinburgh in South Australia.
- Since January 5, three C-27J Spartan aircraft have assisted in the evacuation of personnel from Mallacoota to East Sale. .
- Base support: RAAF Base East Sale is supporting Defence aircraft providing emergency responses. RAAF Bases East Sale and Williams, as well as Latchford Barracks, are prepared to provide accommodation if required.
- Health and pastoral support: Air Force is establishing a Role One Medical Facility at RAAF Base East Sale. Pastoral care will also be provided to support JTF operations. Each JTF will be staffed with appropriately credentialled mental health professionals to provide proactive and reactive mental health support. On January 8, a medical treatment team was deployed to remote townships still isolated, including Combienbar and Gipsy Point.
New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – Joint Task Force (JTF) 1110
- JTF establishment: JTF 1110 is based on the Army’s 5th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. The JTF is assembling its forces at Holsworthy Barracks and other bases.
- Central hub: Holsworthy Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response in NSW and is being used as a staging point for logistics, engineering and health support.
- Engineer support:
- The JTF has conducted engineering reconnaissance to build a clearer picture of the expected route clearance and recovery operations that will be required. Engineers will be in position in Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and the Southern Highlands to commence recovery tasking. Fire trail clearance is under way at Mudgee from January 6-10.
- On January 9, Army engineers completed a route clearance in Bulga.
- From January 9, an engineering reconnaissance team will operate out of the Incident Control Centre at Moruya after linking with the Rural Fire Service in Mogo.
- On January 8, Army engineers staged forward to Canberra and moved into Eden with a focus on supporting efforts currently being undertaken to deal with the woodchip fire.
- On January 8, Army engineers created fire breaks in Kangaroo Valley, cleared tracks around Nowra and provided route clearance in Wollemi National Park.
- Recovery operations: The ADF will provide personnel and equipment to undertake initial recovery tasks as identified and assessed by the NSW Government, based on advice from specialist ADF advisers. These tasks will be in Tamworth, Wollondilly, Nowra, Mudgee, Maitland and Wingecarribee and began on January 6.
- Logistics support: Logistics Support Detachments have been deployed to provide support in Casino, Glen Innes, Wilberforce, Tamworth, Tumut and Moruya. Food, water and humanitarian aid has been delivered to these areas. Food and water has been delivered to NSW Rural Fire Service personnel around Tumut, and logistics advice provided to the Snowy Mountain Council food distribution point.
- Navy support: HMAS Adelaide is off the coast of Eden ready to commence relief and evacuation operations according to the most pressing need. Navy liaison officers have disembarked Adelaide and deployed to Merimula and Moruya to coordinate support. Navy liaison officers are also established in Eden and Wonboyn. MV Sycamore is off the coast of Merimbula ready to begin evacuation operations.
- Helicopter support: Army and Navy are providing rotary-wing support through 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 Wales Rural Fire Service throughout the Hunter, Greater Sydney, Illawarra and Southern regions. Two Australian Army and one New Zealand NH-90 helicopters and crew are at Luscombe Airfield at Holsworthy ready to support the area from January 10.
- Fixed-wing support: Since January 8, a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft has been conducting reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas in NSW and Victoria. This aircraft is operating from RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia. On January 7, support flights were made between Port Macquarie to Merimbula to relieve 20 firefighters.
- Base support: Airbase access and support is being provided for Large Aerial Tanker and spotter aircraft at RAAF Base Richmond. The base has made preparations to receive and accommodate evacuees if required. A Striker Vehicle and crew have been made available to support NSW Rural Fire Service helicopter ‘hot-refuelling’ at Picton Showgrounds. The Fuel Farm and Medical recommenced operations at RAAF Base Williamtown on January 6. The base is prepared to provide accommodation if required. Refuelling support continues to be provided at RAAF Base Wagga, and the base is providing accommodation support as required. Accommodation and meals are being provided for NSW Rural Fire Service personnel at HMAS Albatross. Marrangaroo Training Area has been made available for Rural Fire Service operations. A reception centre has been established at HMAS Harman to provide emergency accommodation for evacuees as required. Army and Air Force engineering teams are staging at HMAS Harman ready to support the Snowy Mountains and Riverina areas.
- Provision of equipment: 400 stretchers have been provided to the evacuation centres at Moruya and Batemans Bay. A fuel tanker has been sent to the Milton showground.
- Health and pastoral support: Army will mobilise and set-up a Role One Medical Facility at Holsworthy Barracks. Pastoral care will also be provided to support JTF operations. Each JTF will be staffed with appropriately credentialled mental health professionals to provide proactive and reactive mental health support. As of January 9, a Primary Health Team relocated to Eden from Bateman’s Bay.
- Liaison: NSW Police has assigned Assistant Commissioner Michael Willing to Joint Task Force 1110 to strengthen communication and coordination with the ADF. Army support teams have been liaising with communities in Wagga Wagga, Tumut, Holbrook, Cooma, Jindabyne, Tumbarumba, Jingellic, Bega, Bermagui and Eden.
South Australia and Tasmania – Joint Task Force (JTF) 1111
- JTF establishment: JTF 1111 is based on the Army’s 9th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. The JTF is forming its forces from units in South Australia and Tasmania.
- Central hub: Keswick Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response in South Australia and Tasmania.
- On January 10, fixed-wing assets are being prepositioned at RAAF Base Edinburgh as a contingency in the event an evacuation order is given by civilian authorities on Kangaroo Island.
- On January 9, New Zealand Army Engineers arrived on Kangaroo Island to begin support operations.
- As of January 9, ADF elements on Kangaroo Island remain ready to support the evacuation of Vivonne Bay if required. Army engineers have assisted in the clearance of roads in this area.
- On January 8, two bulldozers, one grader and an excavator were deployed to Kangaroo Island to support firebreak preparations.
- A damage assessment team was deployed to Kangaroo Island on January 5, comprising two high-clearance 4WD vehicles capable of carrying a driver and three staff.
- More than 145 Army reservists from 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, and a convoy of Army vehicles with supplies are on Kangaroo Island for initial recovery efforts. The vehicles include Protected Mobility Vehicles, Unimogs and G-Wagons.
- Army personnel have assisted in the evacuation of residents from Parndana and supported Parndana Wildlife Reserve with water supply, cutting fire breaks and preparing the area against the fire.
- Portable water filtration infrastructure is enabling the Middle River Water Treatment Plant to treat raw water to potable (human consumption) levels and is ready to produce up to 250,000 litres a day.
- Army personnel have assisted in the construction of a State Emergency Services camp, rescued injured wildlife and distributed bottled water and bulk water to Kingscote Airport.
- Planning has begun with state authorities to bury dead livestock.
- Airbase support: RAAF Base Edinburgh is ready to accommodate evacuees as required.
- Health and pastoral support: ADF pastoral care and mental health support deployed to Kangaroo Island on January 9 to help ADF personnel and members of the community. A Primary Health Team was established at the Kangaroo Island Ferry Terminal in Penneshaw to treat any evacuees.