Op Bushfire Assist 11 January UPDATE

Daily operations update 11 January 2020 by Major General Jake Ellwood

CAPTION: Soldiers from the 7th Battalion, the Royal Australian Regiment, move a bale of hay for livestock delivered by an Australian Army CH-47F Chinook near Jackson’s Crossing, Victoria: Photo by Private Michael Currie.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

The bushfire crisis is the Australian Defence Force’s main effort, with several thousand full-time and reserve personnel providing direct support in the field, at sea, in the air and from Defence bases across fire-affected regions.

About 2000 reservists are attached to the three joint task forces deployed in support of Operation Bushfire Assist. This number is growing daily.

The call out of up to 3000 reserve personnel will occur over the course of the crisis. They will be deployed throughout New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania, and Victoria. It is essential that the ADF response can be sustained for as long as Government directs.

Defence has established three Joint Task Forces:

  • Victoria: JTF 646 is based on Army’s 4th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. RAAF Base East Sale is the central hub for the Defence response in southern areas.
  • New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory: JTF 1110 is based on Army’s 5th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Holsworthy Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across NSW and the ACT.
  • South Australia and Tasmania: JTF 1111 is based on Army’s 9th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Keswick Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across South Australia and Tasmania.

Defence has appointed a Two-Star Emergency ADF National Support Coordinator, Major General Justin ‘Jake’ Ellwood, to work in support of state and territory authorities.

Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily activity

  • On January 10, an Army reconnaissance team using Protected Mobility Vehicles cleared a route for emergency services in to Mallacoota. This route clearance will recommence on January 11.
  • HMAS Choules left Western Port on January 10 loaded with additional stores and personnel. Due to prevailing weather conditions it was unable to unload in Mallacoota, but is expected to on January 11, with Choules then available for other tasking.
  • On January 10, air movement of stores and personnel continued to critical locations in Cabbage Tree, Bairnsdale and Chandlers Creek.
  • On January 10, a grass fire south of Wodonga prompted evacuation of South Bandiana overnight. All elements of JTF 646 located there were safely moved to Latchford Barracks.
  • ADF teams have supplied about 5400 litres of diesel fuel and 800 litres of unleaded petrol to Mallacoota.
  • Defence is providing 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.
  • Relief centre tasks are continuing in Omeo, Swifts Creek, Bairnsdale, Orbost and Mallacoota.
  • From January 9, interagency teams continued route clearance tasks north of Bairnsdale; hay bales and fodder were being moved to key locations in regional Victoria; engineer support is being provided to Benalla and Ovens; and engineers are undertaking route clearance tasks along the Victorian coast.
  • On January 9, C-27J Spartan operations in support of Mallacoota continued with seven sorties from East Sale to deliver cargo and fly out evacuees.

Ongoing activity

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 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.

Health and pastoral support

  • Air Force is operating a Role One Medical Facility at RAAF Base East Sale and is providing pastoral care to support Joint Task Force operations. Each JTF will be staffed with appropriately credentialled mental health professionals to provide proactive and reactive mental health support. 

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.

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.
  • Since 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.


New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – Joint Task Force (JTF) 1110

Daily activity

  • From January 10, Military Police are conducting security in Batemans Bay in support of the distribution centre at Mackay Park.
  • On January 10, Defence chaplains deployed to Bega, Batlow, Narooma, Eden, Cobargo and Tumut.
  • On January 10, a Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer embedded into the ACT Emergency Centre.
  • On January 10, a transport section was established at Narooma to support maritime evacuation if required.
  • On January 10, a reconnaissance team was deployed by air to Verona, Yowrie and Wandella.
  • On January 10, ADF personnel supporting RFS and logistic operations came ashore to Bega.
  • ADF medical personnel and drivers are relocating to Narooma to support a 4000 personnel evacuation centre.
  • On January 9, Army engineers completed a route clearance in Bulga.
  • An engineering reconnaissance team started operating out of the Incident Control Centre at Moruya on January 9 after linking with the Rural Fire Service in Mogo.
  • On January 9, a Primary Health Team relocated from Batemans Bay to Eden.
  • MV Sycamore is returning to Sydney for a changeover of its civilian crew. The ship will be back on task off the far south coast of NSW once the changeover is complete.
  • HMAS Adelaide has commenced amphibious operations, including moving vehicles and stores ashore in Eden.

Ongoing activity

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.

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.
  • Army and Air Force engineering teams are staging at HMAS Harman ready to support the Snowy Mountains and Riverina areas.

Base support

  • RAAF Base Richmond: 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.
  • RAAF Base Williamtown: The Fuel Farm and Medical resumed operations at RAAF Base Williamtown on January 6. The base is prepared to provide accommodation if required.
  • RAAF Base Wagga: Refuelling support continues to be provided and the base is providing accommodation support as required.
  • HMAS Albatross: Accommodation and meals are being provided for NSW Rural Fire Service personnel.
  • Marrangaroo Training Area: has been made available for Rural Fire Service operations.
  • HMAS Harman: A reception centre has been established for evacuees to provide emergency accommodation as required.

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.

Health and pastoral support

  • Army has established a Role One Medical Facility at Holsworthy Barracks and is providing pastoral care to support JSF operations.


  • 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

Daily activity

  • From January 10, ADF teams continue to support the SES and CFS in the vicinity of Kingscote Airport.
  • On January 10, a C-17 aircraft conducted a resupply flight from RAAF Base Edinburgh to Kangaroo Island.
  • From January 10, ADF teams operating within the Adelaide Hills continue to develop support opportunities to the local community in partnership with local agencies. A Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer team has deployed to the Adelaide Hills to help coordinate tasks for the greater Adelaide area.
  • A P-8A aircraft from RAAF Base Edinburgh conducted reconnaissance of the fire grounds on Kangaroo Island.
  • Army personnel provided water and assisted in fire preparations at the Parndana Wildlife Reserve.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Ongoing activity

  • Planning with state authorities is under way to dispose of 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.


Reserve call out arrangements

  • Call out of Reserves has been authorised by the Governor-General, as part of the wider call out of the ADF.
  • The call out is focused on 4th, 5th, and 9th Brigades, as well as elements of the 6th Combat Support Brigade and 17th Sustainment Brigade, who are forming the basis of the three Joint Task Forces.
  • The call out will involve up to 3000 Reservists and commenced progressively from January 5. Reservists will be contacted by their units.
  • For more information about the call out, visit the Defence Reserves Support website.

Future support

  • Due to the significant impacts to livestock, the ADF will provide support for the essential task of livestock disposal in affected areas, at the request of state authorities and where the ADF’s unique capabilities are best suited.
  • Defence is facilitating the transport of additional fire retardant from the United States using our own air lift capacity, with assistance from international partners.

International assistance

  • The New Zealand Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces are providing support through military assets and personnel.
  • Two Singapore Armed Forces CH-47 Chinooks have deployed to RAAF Base East Sale to support operations in Victoria.
  • Three New Zealand helicopters have arrived and are now available for tasking.
  • Thirty New Zealand Army engineers and their equipment arrived at Kangaroo Island on January 9 and have integrated with Australian Army elements providing assistance.
  • The Papua New Guinea Defence Force contingent will be formed around military engineers and will combine with Australian Army personnel from the Townsville-based 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment. These personnel regularly train and exercise together, both in Papua New Guinea and Australia. The combined team will be attached to Joint Task Force 646 and expected to operate out of country Victoria.
  • We have accepted the Republic of Fiji’s offer to provide a platoon of engineers, who will work alongside ADF personnel operating out of East Gippsland.
  • Defence has received additional offers from other international partners and expects these to be progressively developed as need and circumstances evolve.









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Posted by Brian Hartigan

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

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