Bolstered aerial firefighting fleet in place as hot and dry weather approaches

SA Gov

Thirty-one aircraft are in place to protect South Australians and defend their properties ahead of the predicted hot and dry bushfire season – an additional five aircraft than last year.

A $26.7 million investment by the Malinauskas Government has seen South Australia’s largest ever aerial firefighting fleet assemble, with fixed wing aircraft and helicopters – including two new Blackhawk helicopters – coming together at Claremont Airbase on Friday before heading off to their summer postings.

The five new aircraft include:

  • 2 Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) with a 3,000L capacity for water, foam, water enhancer or fire retardant.
  • 2 Blackhawk helicopters with a 4,500L capacity for water and foam.
  • 1 Multi-Mission Machine (Eurocopter B3 Squirrel) for air surveillance/ intelligence, strategic bucketing work, aerial incendiary ignition and firefighting crew transportation

Earlier this week, nine of the record 31 aircraft responded immediately to a fire at Mount Pleasant that burnt 430 hectares, alongside CFS crews and appliances on the ground.

With the expansion of the aviation fleet, CFS now has the capability to live stream aerial intelligence, providing real-time observations of the fire ground to assist with creation of warnings, fire predictions and strategic decision making.

Additional aircraft will be stationed in the Eyre Peninsula, Mid North and Lower

South-East regions, to help protect the State’s vital forest industry and support the

Port Lincoln community after a bushfire broke out near the town in early 2023.

The largest ever investment in South Australia’s aerial firefighting fleet has enabled two more Aviation Operations Officers to be recruited, further bolstering crucial CFS resources.

As put by Joe Szakacs

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.

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.

As put by Brett Loughlin, CFS Chief Officer AFSM

Aircraft are particularly valuable in tackling fires that are burning in terrain that is difficult to access, and in reducing the ferocity and speed of fast-moving fires, so our volunteers can safely get into the area and extinguish them.

The expansion of our fleet to include 31 aircraft makes it easier to manage how aircraft are deployed and where they are stationed on days of high fire danger, which improves public safety.

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.

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