Op Bushfire Assist – 2 February UPDATE

Updated 9am 3 February 2020

CAPTION: RAAF No 22 Squadron Air Movements Section personnel prepare to unload fire retardant from a Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177A Globemaster III at RAAF Base Richmond during Operation Bushfire Assist. Photo by Corporal David Said. See story here.

RELATED STORIES: Operation Bushfire Assist 19-20

About 6300 [same as previous day] ADF personnel are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist.

  • There is a temporary increase in numbers as part of the Reserve force transitions from compulsory to voluntary service. [CONTACT still hasn’t figured out why a change in admin status affects the total number of bodies on the ground? – unless they count transitioning people twice! Feel free to explain, if you know – comments section below]
  • Reserves: About 2100 [down 100 on previous day]
  • International military: About 360 [up 20 on previous day, which was up 20 on the day before that. 35 Indonesian engineers arrived 2 Feb]



Victoria – Joint Task Force 646

Recent activity

  • Weather conditions have eased allowing the JTF to focus on recovery tasks. Teams remain prepared to respond to an emergency situation if weather conditions change.
  • Teams continued to clear roads including Bonang Road, Combienbar Road and A1 Princes Highway. The A1 Highway between Orbost and Genoa has reopened.
  • ADF personnel continue Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) reconnaissance tasks in coastal areas of Gippsland to assess the conditions of public roads and tracks.
  • Planning continues for bridge restoration and access improvement at Buchan Cave Reserve.
  • The JTF continue route clearance and carcass disposal tasks in support of Towong Shire.
  • Teams are cleaning ash and debris around Nariel Valley (near Corryong) and supporting the Rotary volunteer fencing group near Corryong.
  • The JTF supported the Orbost Incident Coordination Centre to establish an evacuation centre, into which evacuees were received. Evacuees have returned home.
  • To date, the ADF has supported the return of 382 civilian evacuees to Mallacoota via Australian and Japanese C-130 Hercules and C-27J transport aircraft.
  • Ausnet has now connected their own bulk fuel storage facility within Mallacoota totalling some 36,000 litres. This will enable the generators there to run the town and outlying areas without ADF assistance. The ADF fuel capability is expected to withdraw from Mallacoota in coming days.
  • Local authorities have requested the ADF Primary Health Care Team remains in Mallacoota to support the Country Fire Authority (CFA) as conditions are expected to deteriorate. This support will continue for as long as needed.

Engineer support

  • JTF engineers (including from Papua New Guinea Defence Force and Fiji Military Force) continue to clear priority routes, and complete survey and assessment tasks on roads and tracks.​​​​​​.

Ongoing support

  • Carcass removal operations are ongoing, along with coordination and planning for a potential wildlife extraction task.
  • The JTF continues to support fodder drops in areas of need.
  • Teams are ccontinuing to provide catering, fuel supply and environmental health support at key areas at Bairnsdale, Orbost, Wangaratta, Corryong and Omeo.
  • Support is being provided to evacuee camps, one Department of Human Services (DHS) recovery centres and emergency service personnel.

Air support

  • Two Australian and two Singaporean CH-47 Chinooks 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 JTF operations. Each JTF is staffed with appropriately credentialed mental health professionals.

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 1110

Recent activity

  • The ADF is supporting emergency services to contain the Orroral Valley and Clear View bushfires near Canberra. This is JTF 1110’s main effort following the declaration of a state of emergency in the territory. .
  • The Commanding Officer from Engineer Task Group is working in the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) to coordinate engineering support.
  • Engineering, catering and base support to the Rural Fire Service (RFS) continues at HMAS Harman and the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA).
  • ADF helicopters supported operations and search and rescue capability within the ACT. Fire mapping was conducted in support of the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS).
  • JTF engineers are clearing debris and fallen trees.
  • Engineers are supplying the Queanbeyan Rural Fire Service with a grader and 5000-litre water tanker to react to spot fires south of the city.
  • Fire-spotting support continues. Support from RAAF P-8A aircraft surveillance is achieving 24-hour fire mapping within the Namadgi National Park.
  • JTF engineers are supporting fire break tasks. This includes in the Namadgi National Park to support the ACT Department of Parks and Forestry.
  • Fire breaks are also being constructed to the immediate south of the Canberra suburb of Banks and near HMAS Harman.
  • An Air Force Stryker firefighting vehicle is in Canberra to provide overwatch of engineer plant operations to mitigate the risk of fires being ignited from sparks.
  • Aerial fire mapping was conducted by RAAF P-8A focusing on the Namadgi National Park and Nowra regions.
  • At Colo Heights, 38 trees posing a danger were removed along 6.5km of the Womerah Trail.
  • Around 3km of fire breaks were constructed near Jerra Creek.
  • Tree felling tasks were conducting at Munderoo Roadd and Moody’s Hill (Tumbarumba region) and the Tumbarumba Caravan Park.
  • Civil Military Co-operation (CIMIC) personnel assessed evacuation support requests in Bredbo.
  • Response teams are remaining prepared to support local authorities and evacuation centres in the Bega Valley and Eurobodalla over the next 24 hours in response to extreme fire conditions.
  • In Wauchope, teams constructed 2.8km of fencing and cleared debris from a 2.9km route.
  • Engineer support was provided to a river crossing project to allow access for the Wytaliba community (near Glen Innes).
  • Military helicopters will continue to support fire mapping operations within the ACT while supporting NSW RFS from RAAF Base Richmond and Nowra.
  • JTF logistics personnel are providing bulk water in support of the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) at Tharwa, as well as veterinarian support at Cooma.
  •  A water tanker is refilling other tankers in support of the Rural Fire Service near Peak View. A total of approximately 60,000 litres has been delivered in the past six days.
  • Bulk fodder delivery is ongoing with 3000kg taken to Bombala.
  • The ADF continues to support civilian authorities following the Coulson C-130 Hercules Large Aerial Tanker accident near Adaminaby. JTF personnel are assisting authorities to secure the site.
  • The 5th Combat Service Support Battalion is transporting donated fodder to farmers in Bodalla.

Ongoing support

  • JTF personnel continue to assist civilian authorities with door knocking and evacuation support in directly threatened areas.
  • Bulk water continues to be delivered to Numeralla, near Cooma.
  • ADF veterinarian support is being provided to the Numeralla Koala Sanctuary in Cooma.
  • 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 Eurobodalla.
  • Primary health care team support is being provided in Tumbarumba, Bega, Braidwood, Bucketty and at HMAS Albatross.
  • Route clearance continues in the Blue Mountains, Clarence Valley, Ilford, Wollemi, Wingecarribee and Nana Glen.
  • Route clearance in support of telecommunications companies is ongoing near Bega, Eden, Belowra, Yadbro, Nerrigundah and Deua River.
  • ADF personnel are supporting seven Services Australia recovery centres.

Navy support

  • HMAS Choules was positioned off the NSW south coast near Moruya over the weekend to provide support to the area. A change in weather conditions means the ship will now return to base in Sydney.

Air support

  • MRH90 Taipan, MH-60R Seahawk and EC-135 helicopters are conducting fire mapping, surveillance and search and rescue operations supporting the NSW Rural Fire Service.


South Australia and Tasmania  – Joint Task Force 1111

Recent activity

The JTF continues to monitor weather conditions and take preventative measures on Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills due to high rainfall and possible risk of localised flooding.

Kangaroo Island

  • Engineer teams supported volunteer organisation Blaze Aid, conducted fire break remediation tasks and National Parks projects. Equipment maintenance and personnel administration activities were also conducted.
  • Engineers in Flinders Chase National Park have conducted assessed final tasks and continue with tree and route clearance.
  • JTF is providing support to the South Australian Country Fire Service in the Blue Gums complex to clear log piles which continue to smoulder and could reignite in the hot weather.
  • JTF engineers continue to produce drinking water as a priority at Penneshaw.
  • There is a focus on fatigue management of ADF personnel to make sure forces are sustained to provide continued support for local tasks.
  • Teams are undertaking chainsaw tasks, focusing on any outstanding requests for support.
  • ADF teams are supporting the State Emergency Service and National Parks with infrastructure repairs in Parndana and Vivonne Bay.
  • The JTF is helping local farmers to clear routes and boundary fences.

Adelaide Hills

  • Teams continue to assist with local infrastructure support, route clearance, clean water delivery and clean-up of fire damage.
  • Flash flooding has only had a minor impact on recovery efforts.
  • Bulk water and environmental health support to local communities is ongoing.


  • The emergency support force within Tasmania remains ready to support the Tasmanian Emergency Services and continues planning with key stakeholders.

Ongoing support

  • Recovery operations continue to clear roads, trees and debris, fix signposts and remove damaged fences.
  • The JTF continues to support civilian agencies on Kangaroo Island with catering and environmental health support.
  • ADF personnel continue to work with the Lobethal Recovery Centre, which is providing emergency relief and support to residents in the Adelaide Hills and Cudlee Creek areas.
  • JTF 1111 continues to support SA Water, SA Health, State Emergency Service, National Parks Service and Country Fire Service infrastructure.
  • An Australian Army catering detachment is helping to feed personnel conducting support tasks on Kangaroo Island.
  • The ADF is currently supporting two Services Australia recovery centres.

Air support

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



International support

ADF efforts are supported by about 360 international military personnel. This includes:

  • 35 engineers from Indonesian National Armed Forces have arrived in Australia and are preparing to support operations in the Blue Mountains.
  • 99 Papua New Guinea Defence Force members – largely engineers – working with JTF 646
  • 54 Republic of Fiji Military Force engineers working alongside ADF personnel in East Gippsland.
  • 45 New Zealand Defence Force members.
  • 40 Republic of Singapore Air Force members.
  • 71 Japan Self-Defense Force members.
  • 10 United States Air Force members forming two cargo load teams operating from RAAF Bases Richmond and East Sale.

In addition:

  • The New Zealand Defence Force has previously provided C-130 and engineering support and is currently providing three NH-90 helicopters [plus NZDF firefighters].
  • 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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Posted by Brian Hartigan

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

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