Op Bushfire Assist – 12 January UPDATE

More than 5000 full-time and reserve personnel are now providing direct support in the field, at sea, in the air and from Defence bases across fire-affected regions.

CAPTION: An Australian Army Heavy Recovery Vehicle is used to recover a NSW Rural Fire Service-contracted helicopter that ditched in the Ben Boyd Reservoir near Eden, NSW. Photo: Sergeant Bill Solomou.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

More than 2700 reservists and 2300 full-time military personnel are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20.

Defence has established three Joint Task Forces – in Victoria, New South Wales/ACT and South Australia/Tasmania.

Defence is also providing support to emergency services in Western Australia to support firefighting efforts.

The ADF is providing support for the essential task of livestock and wildlife disposal in affected areas, at the request of State authorities and where the ADF’s unique capabilities are best suited.

 

Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

On January 12:

  • HMAS Choules transferred supplies, including fuel, to Mallacoota.
  • ADF support teams delivered medical supplies to Bruthen, Tambo Crossing, Ensay, Swifts Creek and Omeo.
  • A Royal New Zealand Air Force NH90 helicopter conducted fodder drops from Bairnsdale to Mallacoota.
  • Two Republic of Singapore Air Force CH-47 helicopters assisted with deliveries and transport for the Red Cross and the Country Fire Authority.

On January 11:

  • ADF support teams visited the communities of Myrtleford, Merriang, Nug Nug, Clifton Creek, Fairhope, Lakes Entrance, Sarsfield, Upper Tambo, Swift Creek, Tiltandra, Cudgewa, Berringama, and Lucyvale to co-ordinatie urgent community needs.
  • Defence provided support to the Victorian Police conducting evacuations in Harrietville in the Alpine region.
  • An Army reconnaissance team using Protected Mobility Vehicles continued route clearance and assessment between Orbost and Mallacoota; HMAS Choules transferred supplies to Mallacoota.
  • HMAS Choules transferred supplies to Mallacoota.
  • CH-47 helicopters supplied about 4000 litres of unleaded petrol to Mallacoota.
  • Planning was undertaken with Victorian authorities to support disposal of animal carcasses in coming days.

Ongoing activity

Helicopter support

  • ADF helicopters 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 January 12, four Australian and two Singaporean CH-47 Chinook helicopters are operating from RAAF Base East Sale to provide support to firefighting operations and humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities. Two of the Australian Chinooks will be transferred to South Australia on January 13 to assist on Kangaroo Island.

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 is be staffed with appropriately credentialed 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.
  • 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 highlights

On January 12:

  • A Navy Clearance Dive Team and Army engineers assisted in the recovery of the downed civilian helicopter from the Ben Boyd Reservoir near Eden. The dive team played a key role in resurfacing the aircraft, allowing an ongoing investigation by civil aviation authorities.
  • A Royal New Zealand Air force NH‐90 helicopter provided support to ACT authorities.

On January 11:

  • Engineer Task Groups provided support throughout the state. Heavy plant has been working at the Bondo Forest and Eden Woodchip Mill.
  • Engineers commenced heavy plant operations in support of the Department of Forestry with the construction of a 70km long firebreak in Bondo State Forest.
  • Engineers transported fodder for livestock from Holbrook to Willigobung, and clearing fallen trees in Batlow.
  • Two truckloads of livestock fodder were delivered within the Snowy Valley region.
  • Army engineers worked on clearance tasks from Maitland. Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.

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 is providing 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 are in Tamworth, Wollondilly, Nowra, Mudgee, Maitland and Wingecarribee.
  • Army and Air Force engineering teams are staging at HMAS Harman ready to support the Snowy Mountains and Riverina areas.

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 MRH-90 helicopters and a New Zealand NH-90 helicopter and crew are providing support out of Luscombe Airfield at Holsworthy.

Health and pastoral support

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

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

Daily highlights

On January 12:

  • Army Engineer Support Teams are collecting and burying deceased livestock and wildlife on Kangaroo Island.
  • Army Engineer Support Teams assisted with fire containment tasks, equipment provisions, road clearance and fence repairs.
  • Army Engineer Support Teams are assisting with removal of fallen trees, fence repairs and the replacement of roadside safety markers in the Adelaide Hills.

Other support:

  • Two CH-47 Chinooks will move to Kangaroo Island on January 13 to provide mobility and logistic support for a few days..
  • ADF teams continue to support the State Emergency Service and Country Fire Service in the vicinity of Kingscote Airport. They also have been conducting repairs to farms and infrastructure, clearing fallen trees and transporting up to 20,000 litres of water for local farms and livestock in the Adelaide Hills.
  • A P-8A aircraft from RAAF Base Edinburgh will continue reconnaissance of fire grounds in Kangaroo Island, Gippsland, Shoalhaven, Alpine regions and the Hume Highway.
  • A Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer team is helping coordinate tasks for the greater Adelaide 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 400,000 litres every 24 hours for use by CFS and community members in cooperation with SA Water. New Zealand Army engineers are producing another 12,000 litres a day.

Ongoing activity

Health and pastoral support

  • ADF pastoral care and mental health support personnel 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.

Defence base support

  • Due to the bushfire crisis, Defence has opened bases from Brisbane to Adelaide for the use of people needing short-term evacuation assistance. For more information call 1800 333 362.
  • RAAF Base East Sale is supporting Defence aircraft providing emergency response. The base is prepared to provide accommodation.
  • RAAF Base Williams is prepared to provide accommodation.
  • Latchford Barracks is prepared to provide accommodation.
  • RAAF Base Edinburgh is ready to accommodate evacuees as required.
  • RAAF Base Richmond is providing airbase access and support for Large Air Tanker and spotter aircraft. The base has made preparations to receive and accommodate evacuees if required.
  • RAAF Base Williamtown is prepared to provide accommodation. As of 6 January, the fuel farm and medical recommenced operations.
  • RAAF Base Wagga is providing refuelling support. The base is providing accommodation support as required.
  • HMAS Albatross is providing accommodation and meals for RFS personnel.
  • Marrangaroo Training Area has area has been made available for RFS operations.
  • HMAS Harman has a reception centre available for evacuees, and will provide emergency accommodation as required.

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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Brian Hartigan

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

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