Op Bushfire Assist – 22 January UPDATE

Updated at 9am 23 January 2020

CAPTION: An Australian Army Bushmaster protected mobility vehicle from the 3rd Combat Engineer Regiment, conducts a route reconnaissance near Swifts Creek, Victoria, in support of Operation Bushfire Assist. Photo by Private Madhur Chitnis.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

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

Nearly 6400 ADF personnel are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist. This includes about 3000 reservists.

ADF efforts are also being supported by more than 350 international military representatives. See ‘International support’ at the bottom of this page.

ADF support to the bushfire crisis will continue for as long as needed. Support is focused on assisting state authorities reopen roads, restore essential services and deliver emergency food, water and fodder to affected communities

 

 

Detailed support

Victoria – Joint Task Force (JTF) 646

Recent activity

  • Improved weather has allowed task force engineers to refocus efforts on route clearance of the Great Alpine Road, Princes Highway and Merimbula Road.
  • Major stretches of the Great Alpine Road have been cleared of obstacles; however, the road remains closed due to ongoing fire danger.
  • Eighteen residents were flown back to Mallacoota on ADF aircraft. A total of 67 locals and relief agency personnel have been returned to Mallacoota in recent days. The ADF continues to work with the Victorian Government to return visitors who were displaced from Mallacoota.
  • Planning continues for return of residents from Essendon to Mallacoota via Merimbula.
  • Republic of Fiji Military Force personnel have arrived in the Orbost region to commence clearing roads alongside ADF engineers.
  • Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) engineers are working with ADF members to clear roads in Omeo.
  • Helicopter support was provided to the Australian Red Cross and for fodder drops.

Ongoing support

  • Carcass disposal in support of local councils in the eastern Alpine region continues.
  • JTF 646 is providing logistics and transport assistance to Emergency Services in Tallangatta and Corryong.
  • Fodder is being delivered to areas of need, and route clearance through coastal and alpine areas continues.
  • Support is being provided to evacuee camps, Department of Human Services (DHS) recovery centres and emergency service personnel.
  • Army teams are continuing to clear the Princes Highway and surrounding roads to enable essential supplies to be delivered to isolated communities and emergency services.
  • 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.
  • Army engineers are clearing the Princes Highway and surrounding roads to enable essential supplies to be delivered to isolated communities and emergency services.
  • Teams are conducting clearance tasks near the Victorian and New South Wales border. Engineering personnel and equipment are also supplementing state capabilities to clear and reopen roads in fire affected areas of Victoria.

 

 

Air support

  • Two Australian and two Singaporean CH-47 Chinook helicopters are operating from RAAF Base East Sale to support firefighting operations and provide humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities. Other ADF aircraft are providing support as needed from around the country..

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.

 

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

Recent activity

  • Route clearance, fodder distribution and delivery of clean water continues throughout areas of need.
  • 18,000kg of bulk fodder has been delivered to Bemboka and Cobargo areas.
  • A further 14 road trains of fodder has been consolidated in preparation for distribution at Polo Flats Road area and Cooma Sale Yards.
  • Preparations to remove unsafe trees within Bago Forrest continues.
  • Army personnel are helping Batlow orchard growers to fell burnt trees.
  • The JTF is replacing fences along the Bega Valley Highway, as well as near Cooma and Tumut.
  • Army personnel are assisting to maintain NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) vehicles.
  • JTF logisticians are preparing to handover the distribution centres in Batemans Bay, Lake Conjola, Milton and Shoalhaven to NGOs and community organisations.
  • Reconstruction has commenced on a damaged roof at Mogo Zoo on the NSW south coast.

 

 

Navy support

  • HMAS Adelaide will return to Sydney on January 23 following almost three weeks at sea. It will be replaced on-station by HMAS Choules, which has resupplied with vehicles and personnel to respond quickly to requests for ADF assistance.
  • HMAS Adelaide will also resupply and remain on short notice to sail again until early February should the bushfire situation worsen.
  • Since sailing on January 4, HMAS Adelaide has supported communities between Eden and Bega. The vessel has delivered vehicles and personnel ashore from Army’s 9 Force Support Battalion to support recovery efforts, providing logistics support via sea and air, and deploying liaison teams into isolated communities to provide on-ground support.

Ongoing support

  • Defence is maintaining containment lines and planning to support the remediation of a helicopter landing zone within the Namadgi National Park (west of Canberra).
  • Support continues around the Canberra and Tumut area with clearance, logistics, medium and heavy plant tasks and driver support to NSW RFS.
  • Navy elements are resupplying the Bega Rural Fire Service with water.
  • A health team and Army veterinarian are assessing environmental health and animal issues in Batemans Bay, Bega, Cooma and Tumbarumba.
  • JTF 1110 continues to support catering efforts, providing 1000 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, Bega, Richmond and Canberra.
  • ADF chaplains are operating in Bega, Cobargo, Cooma, Eden, Singleton, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Kiah. An ADF Aboriginal Liaison officer is conducting community engagement and liaison with Aboriginal Land Councils within Eurobodella.
  • Consolidation of fodder and hay for the non-government organisation South Coast Rural Relief is ongoing.
  • Primary health care team support is being provided in Tumbarumba, Bega, Braidwood, Bucketty and HMAS Albatross.
  • Potable water transport continues within Greater Hume Council and Snowy Valleys – providing 40,000 litres per day to the community.
  • Two Fleetliner fuel tankers around Holbrook are providing 120,000 litres a day to local communities.
  • Accommodation and meals are being provided at HMAS Albatross.

Air support

  • MRH-90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and EC-135 helicopters are conducting fire mapping, surveillance, and search and rescue support operations supporting the RFS throughout the Hunter, Greater Sydney, Illawarra, ACT and southern regions..

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.

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

Recent activity

Kangaroo Island

  • Support continues with recovery operations.
  • ADF teams are supporting Parndana and Vivonne Bay with fencing and infrastructure tasks.
  • Assessing and clearing routes remains a priority task.

 

 

Adelaide Hills

  • Engineer support is focusing on infrastructure repair and route clearance, as well as water distribution.

 

Ongoing support

  • Water treatment and delivery is ongoing. The ADF water purification team has so far produced almost 2.4 million litres of clean water for Kangaroo Island, with the priority of support to high-risk farmers.
  • JTF1111 continues to support SA Water, SA Health, State Emergency Service (SES), National Parks Service and Country Fire Service (CFS) infrastructure.
  • The JTF is coordinating movements with Tour Down Under management staff to make sure the major cycling event is not impacted by ADF operations.
  • Support continues for fire containment tasks, equipment provisions, road clearance and fence repairs, removing fallen trees and replacing roadside markers.
  • ADF personnel are working with the Lobethal Recovery Centre, which is providing emergency relief and support to residents in the Adelaide Hills and Cudlee Creek areas.
  • An Australian Army catering detachment is helping to feed personnel conducting support tasks on Kangaroo Island.
  • The ADF water purification team has so far produced almost 2.4 million litres of clean water for Kangaroo Island, with the priority of support to high-risk farmers.
  • Soldiers and chaplains are supporting vulnerable or at-risk members of the community, including farmers and vineyard owners.

 

Air support

  • P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft continues to conduct reconnaissance flights over fire-affected areas in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. This aircraft is operating from RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia.

 

International assistance

ADF efforts are supported by over 350 international military personnel. This includes:

  • 99 Papua New Guinea Defence Force members – largely engineers – working with JTF 646
  • 54 Republic of Fiji Military Force engineers who are working alongside ADF personnel in East Gippsland.
  • 87 New Zealand Defence Force members.
  • 50 Republic of Singapore Air Force members.
  • 80 Japan Self-Defense Force members.

In addition:

  • The New Zealand Defence Force has provided engineering support and three NH-90 helicopters.
  • The Singapore Armed Forces has provided two CH-47 helicopters.
  • The Government of Japan has provided two C-130 Hercules aircraft.

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Brian Hartigan

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

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