Op Bushfire Assist – 18 January UPDATE

Updated at 9.30am 19 January 2020

CAPTION: Australian Army HX77 heavy rigid vehicles load up with fodder near Cooma, NSW, for delivery to fire-affected farms. Photo by Sergeant Brett Sherriff.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

The bushfire crisis is the Australian Defence Force’s main effort.

More than 6500 ADF personnel are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist. This includes about 3000 reservists.

ADF efforts are also being supported by more than 300 international military representatives. This includes 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 support to the bushfire crisis will continue for as long as needed.

Three Joint Task Forces are coordinating the ADF’s effort:

  • JTF 646 Victoria: Based on Army’s 4th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. RAAF Base East Sale is the central hub for the Defence response in southern areas.
  • JTF 1110 New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory: Based on Army’s 5th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Holsworthy Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across NSW and the ACT.
  • JTF 1111 South Australia and Tasmania: Based on Army’s 9th Brigade, with support elements from across the ADF. Keswick Barracks is the central hub for the Defence response across South Australia and Tasmania.

Major General Justin ‘Jake’ Ellwood is the Emergency ADF National Support Coordinator working in support of state and territory authorities.


Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Daily highlights

  • Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) engineers are working with ADF members to clear roads in Omeo.
  • Damage assessments have been carried out in Cann River and Wingham River.Army technical engineers are assisting VIC Roads to assess bridges on the Princes Highway
  • Engineers from the Republic of Fiji arrived at Puckapunyal to prepare for integration with ADF teams on January 20.
  • ADF personnel assisted Victoria Police with the door nock evacuation of Nug Nug due to an uncontrolled fire.
  • Engineers continued route clearances around 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. ADF support to Mallacoota continues.
  • Engineer teams that have disembarked HMAS Adelaide 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.
  • 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: a C-17A Globemaster 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 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

  • Army personnel are helping to clear vegetation around the Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex at Tidbinbilla and Tharwa Bridge.
  • 15,000 litres of water and 625kg of fodder was delivered to Paddy’s Flat, north east of Tenterfield.
  • 30,000 litres of water was delivered to Mt Adrah, east of Wagga.
  • 24,000 litres of water distributed to Eden Rural Fire Service and throughout Bega.
  • 68km of the 70km Bondo State Forest firebreak has been completed.
  • 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).
  • Potable water transportation continues within Greater Hume Council and Snowy Valleys, providing 40,000 litres a day to the community.
  • HMAS Adelaide continued 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.
  • HMAS Choules is in Sydney to collect more provisions until January 22.

Ongoing activity


  • Civil Military Cooperation personnel are working in Tumut, Taree, Nowra, Cooma, Bombala, Bega, Richmond and Canberra.
  • Chaplains are now operating in Bega, Cobargo, Cooma, Eden, Singleton, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Kiah.
  • Water resupply continues to areas of need.
  • 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 Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton and Shoalhaven.
  • JTF 1110 continues to support catering efforts, providing 1100 meals a day to civil and military personnel at the Bega Evacuation Centre..
  • 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, Braidwood, Bucketty and HMAS Albatross.
  • 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 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. Three primary health care teams are providing support in Parndana.
  • JTF 1111 continues to support SA Water, SA Health, State Emergency Service and Country Fire Service infrastructure.
  • Teams are assisting with 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 2,398,000 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 are assisting the Mt Barker Council with fire track clearance.
  • Army personnel have arrived at Cleland Wildlife Park to aid in koala feeding and habitat establishment.
  • Teams continue to engage 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

  • Water and emergency fodder distribution will continue in the Adelaide Hills.
  • 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 are 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 JSDF flew its first C-130 mission supporting operations on Kangaroo Island. The team delivered cargo and personnel in fire-affected areas such as Kingscote. The C-130 will move equipment between Kingscote and RAAF Edinburgh today.
  • 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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