For the first time, water bombing aircraft have been strategically based at Northam and Esperance airfields to protect Western Australia’s record grain harvest.
The McGowan Government has positioned firefighting crews at the airfields for deployment to high priority fires at short notice – boosting response times across a region spanning more than 191,000 square kilometres.
The towns are now home to a five-person crew, two fixed-wing water bombers, an air attack supervision aircraft and a fuel truck that can be deployed to assist ground crews responding to bushfires.
The fixed-wing water bombers can cruise at a speed of 280 kilometres per hour, have the ability to drop up to 3,150 litres of water each and require just minutes to refuel and reload.
The new approach will see the aircraft based in the regions until December 15 to support firefighters and protect farming communities from crop fires as Western Australia experiences a bumper grain harvest following a wet winter.
The program is funded by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with support from the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development.
As stated by Emergency Services Minister Reece Whitby:
“Harvest-related fires are a big risk for our farming communities, with this year’s high crop yields resulting in increased fuel loads for fires to take hold.
“These specialised aircraft can support crews on the ground if we need to quickly scale up firefighting operations.
“By strategically basing aircraft in areas where there is increased risk, we can reduce response times and better protect regional communities.
“This will help keep people safe during one of the busiest periods of the year for farming communities.”
As stated by Agricultural Region MLC Darren West:
“Never in my farming career have we seen such a bumper season with high yielding crops right across the State.
“These crops and stubbles provide extremely high fuel loads that may lead to large, uncontrollable fires.
“This once in a generation harvest needs the best possible protection and I welcome this common sense approach.”