Responding to a request for assistance from Bushfires Northern Territory (BFNT), 17 Squadron Fire Section helped extinguish a fire that had been burning 35km south of Katherine in early November.
CAPTION: Leading Aircraftwoman Toni Rutherford, a firefighter from 17 Squadron, on the rear deck of a fire truck near Katherine. Story by Flight Lieutenant Joshua Fuad. Photo by Flight Sergeant Mark Egan.
With unknown weather conditions ahead, further spread of the fire front had the potential to reach RAAF Base Tindal and local farms in the area.
When the call for help came on 2 November, 17 Squadron deployed three crews of four firefighters, who joined BFNT volunteers and Katherine farmers to fight the blaze.
The crews conducted back-burning along a fire break about 54km long, north-east of the fire.
Newly graduated firefighter Aircraftwoman Ffion Gibbons was part of one crew.
“This being my first time at a bushfire, I quickly learned how to use a drip torch along the 12km burn with my crew,” Aircraftwoman Gibbons said.
CAPTION: Aftermath of a back burn meeting the nine-foot fire front which decimated everything on the ground. Photo by Flight Sergeant Mark Egan.
“We worked through the long hours.
“The wind was in our favour for most of the night with a few changes here and there.
“It was steady progress.”
The 17 Squadron firefighters, BNFT volunteers and local farmers battled the blaze into the early hours of the morning and, after more than 12 hours, they had the fire under control.
Acting Senior Fire Manager at BFNT Angus Farlam expressed his gratitude to 17 Squadron.
“On behalf of all our crew, a massive thank you for your assistance with the fire,” Mr Farlam said.
Temporary commanding officer and temporary senior ADF officer Squadron Leader Peter Gibson described the 17 Squadron firefighters’ response to the fires as another day on the job – “not only providing capability to the Tindal community but also projecting capability to the local Katherine community”.
CAPTION: 17 Squadron firefighters from RAAF Base Tindal replenish their water supply. Photo by Flight Sergeant Mark Egan.