As South Australia braces itself for the looming threat of a hot and dry bushfire season, a fortified aerial firefighting fleet comprising 31 aircraft now stands ready to safeguard the state’s residents and their properties.
This impressive ensemble marks an increase of five aircraft compared to the previous year and is the result of a $26.7 million investment by the Government.
This expansive and well-equipped aerial fleet, the largest ever assembled in South Australia, includes a mix of fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, including two brand-new Blackhawk helicopters.
These aircraft have recently converged at Claremont Airbase, gearing up for their crucial summer postings.
“As this hot and dry summer commences, South Australians can feel safer knowing we have our largest ever fleet of firefighting aircraft to surveil and waterbomb bushfires,” Minister for Emergency Services Joe Szakacs says.
“We saw our aerial firefighting fleet respond rapidly earlier this week to a fire at Mount Pleasant, providing an early demonstrating of the impact additional resources will have in SA this bushfire season.
“Deploying these assets in key regional areas will mean crews on the ground will have increased information about fires from observational aircraft, and firefighting support from firebombers.”
The five new additions to the aerial arsenal include two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) boasting a formidable 3,000L capacity for water, foam, water enhancer, or fire retardant. Joining them are two Blackhawk helicopters, each with an impressive 4,500L capacity for water and foam. Completing this enhanced lineup is a Multi-Mission Machine, the Eurocopter B3 Squirrel, designed for air surveillance, intelligence gathering, strategic bucketing work, aerial incendiary ignition, and transportation of firefighting crews.
“The Black Hawks can be airborne within five minutes of a dispatch call and can fly for up to two and a half hours without refuelling, providing greater capability for our other aircraft across South Australia,” Brett Loughlin, CFS Chief Officer AFSM says.
Just this week, nine of the 31 aircraft swiftly responded to a fire outbreak in Mount Pleasant, effectively combating a blaze that consumed 430 hectares. These aerial units worked seamlessly alongside CFS crews and ground-based appliances, exemplifying their invaluable role in bushfire response.
Beyond their firefighting capabilities, the expanded aviation fleet empowers the CFS with the ability to live stream aerial intelligence. This real-time data transmission delivers vital observations from the fire ground, aiding in the creation of timely warnings, accurate fire predictions, and informed strategic decision-making.
Additional aircraft will be strategically stationed in the Eyre Peninsula, Mid North, and Lower South-East regions. These deployments are intended to safeguard South Australia’s vital forest industry and provide support to the Port Lincoln community, which experienced a bushfire incident early in 2023.