Op Bushfire Assist – 15 January UPDATE

Updated at 8am, 16 January 2020

More than 6000 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, with around 3000 reservists now deployed on Operation Bushfire Assist.

CAPTION: Australian Army CH-47 Chinook from Townsville-based 5th Aviation Regiment prepares to uplift hay bales to deliver to remote bushfire-affected farms on Kangaroo Island. Photo by Corporal Tristan Kennedy.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

 

Major General Jake Ellwood’s media briefing 15 January 

 

Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

  • Engineer teams will disembark HMAS Adelaide to support route clearance tasks near the Victorian and New South Wales border.
  • About 100 Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) personnel are undergoing orientation and induction into the Joint Task Force structure at Puckapunyal.
  • MV Sycamore has completed a transfer of personnel from Sydney to HMAS Choules off Mallacoota.

Ongoing activity

  • Continued route clearance and assessment through coastal and alpine areas, with the main effort focused on route clearance on the Princes Highway.
  • Rotary-wing aircraft continue to deliver fodder to areas of need.
  • HMAS Choules is continuing resupply support to Mallacoota.
  • ADF teams are on standby to assist in the disposal of deceased livestock at the request of local authorities.
  • Teams continue route clearance and assessment through coastal and alpine areas, with the main effort focused on the Princes Highway.
  • An Army reconnaissance team using Protected Mobility Vehicles continued route clearance and assessment between Orbost and Mallacoota.
  • ADF presence in Mallacoota continues, along with support activities in the region.
  • Support is being provided to evacuee camps, Department of Human Services recovery centres and emergency service personnel.

 

Air support

  • Severe weather has affected rotary wing support of Joint Task Force 646 with flights postponed over the past 24-48 hours. Weather conditions are being monitored, with ADF helicopters ready to continue transporting fire fighters and evacuees, and provide food and equipment when flights resume.
  • Two 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.
  • 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 aircraft is regularly 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.

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

  • Engineering personnel and equipment have been made available to supplement state capabilities in clearing and reopening roads in fire-affected areas. Other tasks include removing debris from public areas and clearing firebreaks and fire trails.

Damage assessments

  • Support is being provided 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.

 

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

Daily highlights

  • ADF teams continue to establish and support distribution centres in Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo.
  • HMAS Adelaide will operate in the vicinity of Eden and disembark engineer elements to support route clearance tasks for Joint Task Force 1110.
  • Route clearance of the Monaro Highway south of Bombala will continue and is expected to be completed on January 16.
  • Army engineers have completed a reconnaissance to scope the required work at Eden Woodchip Mill with further ADF engineer support recommended.
  • Route clearance of the Monaro Highway south of Bombala continues with expected completion on January 16.
  • Water resupply continues with a stock water drop of 60,000 litres to Gilmore, bulk water resupply in the vicinity of Belowra and 1000-litre distribution to Nimmitabel.
  • HMAS Adelaide’s embarked MH-60R helicopter conducted reconnaissance of potentially isolated communities in the vicinity of the Clyde River Valley.
  • Support to the distribution of food aid and donated goods continues in the vicinity of Batemans Bay and a new distribution point established in Congola. Further distribution points will be established in Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo areas.
  • Route clearance is continuing on the Monaro Highway near Bombala.

 

Ongoing activity

  • Defence is delivering catering support to Bega, with more than 350 meals being provided daily.
  • Delivery of fodder in the vicinity of Bega continues.
  • ADF teams are providing support to the Department of Human Services recovery centres.
  • HMAS Adelaide is poised to support operations with New Zealand NH-90 helicopters.
  • Support continues around the Canberra/Tumut area with clearance, logistic support, medium and heavy plant tasks and driver support to the NSW Rural Fire Service.
  • Army engineers have completed a reconnaissance to scope the required work at Eden Woodchip Mill with further ADF engineer support recommended..
  • Water resupply continues with a stock water drop of 60,000 litres to Gilmore (near Tumut), bulk water resupply in the area of Belowra and 1000 litre distribution to Nimmitabel.
  • Support to the distribution of food aid and donated goods continues in the area of Batemans Bay and a new distribution point has been set-up in Conjola. Further distribution points will be established in Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo areas.

 

Air support

  • Two Royal New Zealand Navy NH-90 helicopters transported Australian Army personnel and equipment to RAAF Base Fairbairn in order to support the RFS Stockyard Spur fire break clearing.
  • HMAS Adelaide’s MH-60R helicopter conducted reconnaissance of potentially isolated communities around the Clyde River Valley.
  • Two EC135 helicopters are conducting fire mapping to support the Rural Fire Service near the ACT.
  • 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.
  • MRH-90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and EC-135 helicopters continue fire mapping, surveillance, and search and rescue operations supporting the NSW Wales Rural Fire Service throughout  the Hunter, Greater Sydney, Illawarra, ACT and southern regions.
  • Four Australian Army MRH-90 helicopters and crew are providing support out of Luscombe Airfield at Holsworthy.

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.

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

  • Kangaroo Island:
  • ADF teams clearance of tracks under power lines to allow access for SA Power maintenance fleet to re-establish power to the southern half of the island.
  • Route clearance of hazards and obstacles on South Coast Road and Cape du Couedic road re-established 2WD access to the lighthouse.
  • The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Water Treatment Facility has been established in Vivonne Bay, providing up to 12,000 litres of fresh water in cooperation with SA Water. NZDF engineers supported repair tasks in the area.
  • Water purification at Kingscote has so far generated 1,600,000 litres of water.
  • Two Australian Army CH-47 helicopters continue support the island, including the transfers of volunteer firefighters and fodder drops.
  • An Army catering detachment is helping to feed of the influx of personnel conducting support tasks on the island.
  • Defence personnel conducted further livestock burials, fire containment tasks, firebreak preparation and recovery of civilian vehicles from the Parndana region.
  • Damage assessments route clearance was conducted in Flinders Chase National Park to enable National Park SA and Tourism activities.
  • Adelaide area:
  • Army personnel have arrived at Cleland Wildlife Park to aid in Koala feeding and habitat establishment.

Ongoing activity

  • JTF 1111 remains prepared to coordinate koala rescue at Warradale Barracks to support injured animal care.
  • ADF teams are assisting with repairs to farms and infrastructure, roadside maintenance, clearing fallen trees and transporting up to 20,000 litres of water for local farms and livestock in the Adelaide Hills.​​​​​​
  • P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft reconnaissance flights continue over fire-affected areas in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. The aircraft is operating from RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia.
  • Army 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.
  • Soldiers and chaplains have been supporting vulnerable or at-risk members of the community, including farmers and vineyard owners.
  • ADF personnel are helping with property clean-up for residents near Cudlee Creek (around Adelaide).
  • Army catering staff are assisting in the provision of meals for South Australia Country Fire Service personnel.
  • A Civil-Military Cooperation Liaison Officer team is helping coordinate tasks for the greater Adelaide area.

Future support

  • 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

  • Japan is providing two C-130 Hercules aircraft and associated personnel. The Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft are expected to arrive on January 16 and will be based at RAAF Base Richmond.
  • 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.
  • 100 light engineers from the Papua New Guinea Defence Force will integrate into JTF 646 once deployment checks are complete.
  • 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.
  • Although appreciative of additional offers from our partners, the ADF does not require further assistance at this stage.

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Brian Hartigan

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

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