The McGowan Government’s advocacy over many years for better aerial firefighting support has been acknowledged with the addition of a Large Air Tanker to the State’s aerial fleet for this bushfire season.
Western Australia was funded to have a tanker late last season in response to the Black Summer bushfires, but it had been a resource that had been requested for several years prior.
The LAT will be based in Busselton for the first time so it can have quick access to bushfires throughout the South-West where the nearby difficult-to-reach terrain is most suited to the aircraft.
It can also be deployed throughout other parts of the State if required.
The LAT can drop water, retardant and foam, and carry five times more than fixed-wing water bombers.
In addition to the LAT, the McGowan Government has contracted a line scanner aircraft for a much longer period of time than previously.
The new contract will enable emergency services to map a fire and other hazards such as floods over 330 days rather than 90 days.
The line scanner works in just minutes and provides real-time data back to incident controllers to assist them in deploying resources and keeping the community informed.
The biggest water bombing helicopter in the fleet, the Erickson Aircrane, nicknamed Georgia Peach, also comes online this weekend after returning to WA from fighting fires in Greece.
The 2020/21 WA aerial fleet consists of 35 aircraft with aerial intelligence and water bombing capabilities.
The fleet is managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and the Parks and Wildlife Service at the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions and is jointly funded by the State and Federal Governments through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.
As stated by Emergency Services Minister Francis Logan:
“We are very proud to have the Large Air Tanker join the State’s aerial fleet as a resource this bushfire season following many years of fighting for WA’s fair share of Federal funding support.
“We only had the tanker late last season in response to the Black Summer bushfires so I would like to acknowledge and thank the Federal Government for accepting the fact that our State needs a LAT as part of its fleet.
“The LAT will be a significant asset for fire suppression and containment in areas difficult for firefighters to access on foot. We saw this last year when the LAT assisted in bringing a bushfire threatening Collie quickly under control.
“The McGowan Government has also contracted a line scanner for 330 days instead of 90 days to significantly improve our aerial intelligence capabilities for bushfires, floods and any other potential hazards.
“Although the State’s aerial fleet has never been stronger, Western Australians must not rely on water bombers to keep them safe this bushfire season.
“There will never be a helicopter over every house, so everyone needs to play their part and take personal responsibility for their safety.
“You must put a plan in place now and that includes if you are travelling to areas that are unfamiliar and more bushfire prone.
“Search ‘My Bushfire Plan’ online to create a bushfire plan today.”
As stated by Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:
“Last summer we saw devastating bushfires across the country and we know that being prepared with aerial suppression measures to support ground crews makes a big difference to protecting life and property from the effects of bushfires.
“Using aerial and ground resources, the State Government continues to make significant efforts to suppress bushfires as well as reduce the amount of fuel firefighters have to confront in a bushfire.
“Since July 1, 2020, DBCA’s Parks and Wildlife Service has undertaken more than 90,000 hectares of prescribed burning across its three South-West forest regions, reducing combustible fuel and the risk of bushfire to our community and environment.
“On behalf of the people of WA I extend my appreciation to firefighters from DBCA’s Parks and Wildlife Service, DFES, local brigades and volunteers, for helping to keep our communities safe.”