Op Bushfire Assist – 17 January UPDATE

Updated 9.30am 18 January 2020

The contingent of Fiji engineers is scheduled to arrive at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport (T2) at 5.30 this evening.

Melbourne’s Fijian community, the Fijian High Commissioner and the commander of Task Force 646 – and probably a media scrum – will be on hand to officially greet them.

We believe these troops will be taken to Puckapunyal for a couple of day’s induction training before being deployed to the East Gippsland region for tasking.

The following media briefing video by Major General Jake Ellwood was recorded yesterday afternoon, and will be the last scheduled video briefing produced. Any further briefings or press conferences will only be arranged if something significant happens.


Major General Jake Ellwood’s last scheduled media briefing


PHOTO CAPTION: Australian Army soldiers from 16 Regiment Emergency Support Force assist in flushing a contaminated water tank near Lobethal, South Australia.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

Soldiers from 16 Regiment Emergency Support Force continue to support bushfire-affected communities across the Adelaide Hills.

The troops have expanded their capability to deliver water to those requiring it, with the arrival of additional water-transport assets to Woodside Barracks, South Australia.

They have been bolstered by the arrival of specialist Royal Australian Navy and New Zealand Defence Force personnel to enhance support of their operations in the field.

The team continues to support and work alongside state emergency services and volunteer agencies, with Australian Defence Force members also removing hazardous trees and limbs, repairing fences, clearing debris and providing logistic support.

At last count, there was almost 7000 military personnel assigned to Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20 – 3500 full-time ADF, 3000 Reservists and more than 300 foreigners, with the Fijian contingent yet to be added.



Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

  • The advance party from 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment and the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) have arrived in Swifts Creek and will integrate with JTF 646.
  • Engineers from the Republic of Fiji are scheduled to arrive at Puckapunyal today to prepare for integration with ADF teams on 20 January.
  • ADF personnel assisted Victoria Police with the door nock evacuation of Nug Nug due to an uncontrolled fire.
  • Engineers continued route clearances around Buchan.
  • Support was provided to Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning and Parks Victoria to rescue koalas near Buchan.
  • JTF 646 supported a task to help Optus technicians near Mallacoota.
  • The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle detachment supported Victoria Police north of Buchan.

Ongoing activity

  • Defence is working with the Victorian Government to return up to 500 residents to Mallacoota via Air Force fixed-wing aircraft from Melbourne and East Sale.
  • Engineer teams have disembarked HMAS Adelaide and are supporting route clearance tasks near the Victorian and NSW border.
  • Delivery of fodder to areas of need, and route clearance through coastal and alpine areas continues.
  • ADF support to Mallacoota continues.
  • 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 providing pastoral care to support Joint Task Force operations. Each JTF is staffed with appropriately credentialed mental health professionals to provide proactive and reactive mental health support.

UAS support

  • A Small Unmanned Aerial System (Wasp) is based at RAAF Base East Sale 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 have completed around 760km of route clearance for the Snowy Monaro Regional Council.
  • Route clearance has also been completed in the following areas: around the Eden Woodchip Mill near Edrom Road, Kiah, Bega Valley, Shoalhaven and Palerang local government area (Nowra to Braidwood).
  • Five drivers were provided to the Rural Fire Service to help with logistic efforts.
  • Teams supplied 4000 litres of water to a rural property at Belowra.
  • 41,000kg of fodder was delivered to Jingellic.
  • Potable water transportation continues within Greater Hume Council and Snowy Valleys, providing 40,000 litres a day to the community.
  • JTF 1110 continues to support catering efforts, providing 1100 meals a day to civil and military personnel at the Bega Evacuation Centre.
  • Civil Military Cooperation personnel are working in Tumut, Taree, Nowra, Cooma, Bombala and Bega.
  • Chaplains are now operating in Bega, Canberra, Cobargo, Cooma, Eden, Singleton, HMAS Albatross, Tumbarumba and Batlow.
  • HMAS Adelaide will continue to provide support to the south-east region of NSW, and north-east region of Victoria today. Equipment was disembarked from HMAS Adelaide to support the Eden Woodchip Mill recovery.

Ongoing activity

  • 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.
  • ADF teams continue to establish and support distribution centres in Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo.
  • Consolidation of fodder and hay for the non-government organisation South Coast Rural Relief is ongoing.
  • Route clearance tasks in the South West Slopes and Snowy Mountains region include: Tumbarumba Rd, Wondalga Rd, Goat Ridge Rd, Cabramurra and Elliott Way, the Alpine Way, and in the vicinity of Countegany and Imlay Rd.
  • 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 the Milton, Shoalhaven and Cobargo areas.
  • Defence is delivering catering support to Bega, with more than 350 meals being provided daily. Fodder is also being delivered in the area.
  • Support continues around the Canberra and Tumut area with clearance, logistics, medium and heavy plant tasks and driver support to the Rural Fire Service.
  • 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.

Air support

  • 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.


  • 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:

  • The JTF has helped establish the Parndana Relief Centre. Teams continue to purify and distribute water for the area.
  • Teams are conducting livestock burial and treatment, route and fencing clearance, clearing felled trees and providing support for SA Water and SA Power networks.
  • Water purification at Kingscote has so far generated 1.6 million litres of water.
  • An Australian Army catering detachment is helping to feed of the influx of personnel conducting support tasks on the island.



Adelaide area:

  • Army personnel have arrived at Cleland Wildlife Park to aid in koala feeding and habitat establishment.
  • 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 20,000 litres of water for local farms and livestock in the Adelaide Hills.
  • A P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft is conducting reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas in NSW, Victoria and South Australia. This 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.

Defence base support

  • Defence bases will continue to provide overflow options where civilian accommodation is exhausted. For more information call 1800 333 362.
  • RAAF Base East Sale is supporting Defence aircraft providing emergency response.
  • RAAF Base Richmond is providing airbase access and support for Large Air Tanker and spotter aircraft.
  • RAAF Base Wagga is providing refuelling support.
  • HMAS Albatross is providing accommodation and meals for RFS personnel.
  • Marrangaroo Training Area has area has been made available for RFS operations.


International assistance

  • The Government of Japan has provided two C-130 Hercules aircraft and associated personnel. The Japan Self-Defense Force aircraft are based at RAAF Base Richmond.
  • The Republic of Fiji’ has provided a platoon of around 50 engineers, who will work alongside ADF personnel operating out of East Gippsland.
  • The New Zealand Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces are providing support through military assets and personnel.
  • The Papua New Guinea Defence Force has provided 100 light engineers who are working with JTF 646.









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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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