Queensland Fire and Emergency Services’ (QFES) aerial firefighting fleet has been enhanced in anticipation of increased fire activity this season following three years of wet conditions.
The overall fleet has been boosted by an additional three aircraft, including an intelligence gathering aircraft and two fixed-wing water bombing aircraft.
A UH-60 Black Hawk will also form part of the state’s aerial fleet for the first time since the 2019 season, with the faster machine bringing increased endurance and an ability to carry up to 4,000 litres.
The Large Air Tanker (LAT) has also returned to Bundaberg where it will be based over the coming months ready to respond when needed.
Aircraft base operations have also been improved, with the Retardant and Suppressant Computerised Aircraft Loading (RASCAL) system now being used, increasing safety and accuracy when loading retardant.
“The combination of drying fuels, forecast below average rainfall and above average temperatures has increased the fire risk across Queensland this season,” says QFES Commissioner Greg Leach.
“Under these conditions a heavy initial attack, which our aircraft play a key role in, is our best chance of bringing fires under control quickly.
“The diversity of the fleet ensures we have a range of aircraft to meet different needs, from water bombing through to aerial surveillance and mapping.
“Already this season we’ve seen multiple fast-moving grassfires in the southern half of the state, with aircraft providing support to ground crews by dropping more than 1.5 million litres of suppressant in the last two months.
“QFES is well-equipped to deal with bushfires and our highly skilled and well-trained firefighters are ready to respond, but bushfire preparation is a community effort and now is the time to ensure you are prepared.”
Member for Bundaberg Tom Smith says the community is expected to have the LAT back for another season.
“Strategically located in Bundaberg, the Large Air Tanker is an important asset that assists our brave firefighters on the frontline as they protect our regional communities in the face of dangers associated with fire,” he says.
“I’m excited to welcome the crew back to Bundaberg for another season as we continue to extend this vital partnership that has come about through the Palaszczuk Labor Government’s investment to our front line.
“I also welcome the presence of the UH-60 Black Hawk in Bundaberg.
“It’s exciting for the community to host the Black Hawk as the aircraft joins the ranks of the Queensland Fire and Emergency aerial fleet for the first time.”