Op Bushfire Assist – 13 January UPDATE

The Australian Defence Force’s Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20 continues to grow, with more ADF regular and reserve members joining the operation, and 100 PNGDF engineers touching down in Melbourne this evening.

CAPTION: An Australian Army CH-47F Chinook helicopter loads stores on the flight deck of HMAS Adelaide during Operation Bushfire Assist. Photo by Petty Officer Tom Gibson.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

More than 5000 full-time and reserve personnel are providing direct support in the field across fire-affected regions.

More than 2700 reservists are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist.


Daily operations update presented 13 January 2020 by Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton


Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

  • A Singaporean CH-47 Chinook helicopter conducted a passenger transfer to Melbourne on January 13.
  • The planned move of two New Zealand NH-90 helicopters from Nowra to RAAF Base East Sale was postponed until January 14 due to weather conditions in eastern Victoria.
  • Passengers, diesel fuel and equipment were transported to Mallacoota by a C-27J Spartan aircraft on January 12.
  • Passengers and machinery were flown to RAAF Base East Sale on a C-17A aircraft on January 12.
  • An Army reconnaissance team using Protected Mobility Vehicles continued route clearance and damage assessment between Orbost and Mallacoota.

Ongoing activity

  • Defence is providing support to evacuee camps, Department of Human Services recovery centres and emergency service personnel.

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.
  • 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  transfer 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

  • Two EC-135 helicopters conducted day and night time fire spotting in the Australian Capital Territory on January 13.
  • From January 13, ADF personnel are establishing a distribution point in Batemans Bay with an estimated 24-truckloads of donated goods to be distributed.
  • From January 13, the ADF is assisting the Bega City Council with bridge damage assessments.
  • Engineers established their Task Group Headquarters at Tumut on January 12 to support the State Emergency Operations Centre.
  • An engineer task group was set up on January 12 to support operations around Bega.
  • Engineering clearance support occurred in Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.
  • A transport section was established at Narooma on January 12 to improve logistics flow.
  • On Jnauary 12, a Navy clearance dive team and Army engineers assisted in the recovery of a 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..

Ongoing activity

  • HMAS Adelaide continues operation in the vicinity of Batemans Bay.
  • Engineering clearance support is occurring in Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.
  • Army engineers continue the cutting of a containment line in the vicinity of Kangaroo Valley.
  • Navy liaison officers continue liaison functions into areas such as Borona and Mont.

Engineer support

  • Engineer task groups are providing support throughout the state, including heavy plant work at the Bondo Forest and Eden Woodchip Mill.
  • Heavy plant operations continue in support of the Department of Forestry with construction of a 70km long firebreak in Bondo State Forest.
  • Army engineers commenced clearance tasks from Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.

Fixed-wing support

  • 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 out of 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.
  • Four Australian Army MRH-90 helicopters 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.


  • 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 13, two Australian Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters relocated from RAAF Base East Sale to RAAF Base Edinburgh to provide support to Kangaroo Island.
  • On January 12, a RAAF C-17A transport aircraft flew passengers and cargo to Kangaroo Island.

Ongoing activity

  • ADF teams are assisting with 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 is undertaking reconnaissance of fire grounds in Kangaroo Island, Gippsland, Shoalhaven, Alpine regions and the Hume Highway.
  • Army engineer support teams are disposing of deceased livestock and wildlife on Kangaroo Island. The teams are also assisting with fire containment tasks, equipment provisions, road clearance and fence repairs, removing fallen trees and replacing roadside markers.
  • Army catering staff are assisting in the provision of meals for South Australia Country Fire Service personnel.
  • Support continues to be provided to SES and CFS in the vicinity of Kingscote Airport.
  • A Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer team is helping coordinate tasks for the greater Adelaide area.
  • Army reservists from the 10th/27th Battalion, Royal South Australia Regiment, and a convoy of Army vehicles with supplies are on Kangaroo Island for initial recovery efforts.
  • ADF pastoral care and mental health support personnel are on Kangaroo Island 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 1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th and 17th Brigades and reservists from the 2nd Division, specifically the 4th, 5th and 9th Brigades, who are forming the basis of the three Joint Task Forces.
  • The Call Out will involve up to 3,000 Reservists and commenced progressively from January 5.
  • 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. All Singapore Armed Forces and New Zealand Defence Force elements are now integrated into the operation. The third New Zealand Defence Force NH-90 helicopter has arrived at Nowra.
  • 100 light engineers from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force arrived in Australia on January 13 via C130-J Hercules. They will stage overnight in Puckapunyal in readiness to support the ADF contribution to the Australian national bushfire response.
  • Defence has 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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