On 23 October 2020, New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) unveiled its aerial firefighting fleet at RAAF Base Richmond, New South Wales.
CAPTION: The NSW Rural Fire Service Boeing 737 large air tanker drops a load of water over RAAF Base Richmond. Photo by Corporal Dan Pinhorn.
The fleet includes a NSW RFS Boeing 737 large air tanker – titled ‘Marie Bashir’ – and a smaller Cessna Citation jet used for observation duties.
Both fixed-wing aircraft are permanently based at RAAF Base Richmond.
The fleet also includes a Bell 412 helicopter for rescue and remote firefighting operations, which was recently transported by [Royal Australian*] Air Force across the Pacific from Canada.
During the 2019/2020 Bushfire Season, RAAF Base Richmond provided extensive support to NSW RFS, including airbase operational support to its aerial firefighting fleet, and airborne logistics and accommodation for the movement of volunteer firefighters and their equipment, as well as firefighting aircraft and personnel from overseas.
This cooperation between Defence and a civilian firefighting industry is likely to grow, after the Bushfire Royal Commission handed down its final report today.
Among its recommendations was that Australia should develop and increase its sovereign aerial firefighting capability – and allow/authorise the ADF to play a greater role in firefighting efforts.
“There is merit in the Australian, state and territory governments together ensuring the development of a sovereign aerial firefighting capability of sufficient size and versatility to better meet national needs,” the report said.
“The Australian government should not wait for a natural disaster to overwhelm or exhaust local resources before [the ADF] is able to provide assistance…” the nearly 600-page report also said.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: It seems our accusation that RAAF is trying to drop Royal Australian from its name may not be false after all.