Op Bushfire Assist – 16 January UPDATE

Updated at 8am 17 January 2020

CAPTION: Private Richard Crisp from the Australian Army’s 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment conducts morning checks and prepares to refuel a NSW Bush Fire Service vehicle near Tumut, NSW. Photo by Lance Corporal Brodie Cross.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

The bushfire crisis remains the Australian Defence Force’s main effort, with more than 6500 full-time and reserve personnel are providing direct support in the field, at sea, in the air and from Defence bases across fire-affected regions.

ADF efforts are also being supported by more than 300 international military representatives – 90 New Zealand Defence Force members, 100 Papua New Guinea Defence Force members, almost 50 Republic of Singapore Air Force members and 70 Japan Self-Defense Force members.

ADF personnel have been working with state and territory authorities since September 2019 to respond to Australia’s bushfire crisis and this support will continue for as long as needed.

 

Major General Jake Ellwood’s media briefing 16 January 2020

 

Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

  • The ADF is working with the Victorian Government to return 500 residents to Mallacoota from Melbourne and East Sale on Air Force fixed-wing aircraft.
  • Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) personnel will move into the coastal area of operations on January 17.
  • Engineer teams are supporting route clearance tasks near the Victorian and New South Wales border.
  • HMAS Choules is in Sydney for resupply and will be tasked to provide additional support in the coming days.

Ongoing activity

  • Route clearance through coastal and alpine areas continues.
  • ADF is supporting Mallacoota continues, along with support activities in the region.
  • Rotary-wing aircraft continue to deliver fodder to areas of need.
  • Support is being provided to evacuee camps, Department of Human Services recovery centres and emergency service personnel.

Air support

  • 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

  • Two Japan Self Defence Force C-130H Hercules aircraft and approximately 70 personnel arrived at RAAF Base Richmond on January 16.
  • Teams conducted a fuel resupply to the Rural Fire Service, State Emergency Service and Canadian firefighters in Glen Innes, Quirindi and Tamworth.
  • Consolidation of fodder and hay for the non-government organisation ‘South Coast Rural Relief’ is ongoing. Sixty-eight round bails and 62 square bails are expected to be delivered over the next 24 hours.
  • HMAS Adelaide disembarked engineer elements to support route clearance tasks for the JTF near Eden. Adelaide’s MH-60R helicopter conducted reconnaissance of potentially isolated communities around the Clyde River Valley. Adelaide will continue to provide support to the south east region of NSW, and north east region of Victoria.
  • Ongoing route clearance tasks in the South West Slopes and Snowy Mountains region include: Tumbarumba Road, Wondalga Road, Goat Ridge Road, Cabramurra and Elliott Way, the Alpine Way and in the vicinity of Countegany and Imlay Road.
  • Route clearance of the Monaro Highway south of Bombala was completed on January 16.
  • 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

  • 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 is being provided to distribution centres in Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo.
  • Defence is delivering catering support to Bega, with more than 350 meals being provided daily. Fodder is also being delivered in the area.
  • 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.
  • Engineer task groups are providing support throughout the state, including heavy plant work at the Bondo Forest and Eden Woodchip Mill and construction of a 70km firebreak in Bondo State Forest.
  • Army engineers continue clearance tasks from Maitland, Mudgee, Nowra and Southern Highlands.
  • Primary health care team support is being provided in Tumbarumba, Bega, Cooma, Sydney and Batemans Bay.
  • Two Fleetliner fuel tankers around Holbrook are providing 120,000 litres per day to local communities.
  • Accommodation and meals are being provided on HMAS Albatross.

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:

  • Route clearance was conducted near the Playford Highway.
  • ADF teams assisted South Australian Police near the Bark Hut Road sector in relation to a suspected arsonist.
  • Two Australian Army CH-47 helicopters have returned to RAAF Base East Sale following support to the island, including the transfers of volunteer firefighters and fodder drops.
  • Further water distribution, livestock burial and fodder delivery remain priority tasks.
  • Water purification at Kingscote has so far generated 1,600,000 litres of water.
  • An Army catering detachment is helping to feed of the influx of personnel conducting support tasks on the island.
  • Damage assessments route clearance was conducted in Flinders Chase National Park to enable National Park SA and Tourism activities.

Adelaide area:

  • Teams are engaging with the Lobethal Recovery Centre, which is providing emergency relief and recover support to residents affected by bushfires in the Adelaide Hills and Cudlee Creek areas.
  • Water and Emergency Fodder Distribution will continue in the Adelaide Hills.

Ongoing activity

  • Teams are ready to support Koala Rescue at Warradale Barracks.
  • The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) Water Treatment Facility at Vivonne Bay is providing up to 12,000 litres of fresh water in cooperation with SA Water. NZDF engineers supported repair tasks in the area.
  • ADF teams are assisting with repairs to farms and infrastructure, roadside maintenance, clearing fallen trees and transporting up to 20000 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.

 

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.
  • Defence has accepted the Republic of Fiji’s offer to provide a platoon of engineers, who will work alongside Australian Defence Force personnel operating out of East Gippsland.
  • 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 will integrate into JTF 646 once deployment checks are complete.
  • 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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