Bushfires that have been raging across northwest Tasmania for several weeks are still causing great concern in the island state south of Australia.
Three air tankers from North America that have been working in Australia during their summer bushfire season have been recently deployed to Tasmania, including a DC-10, Avro RJ85, and a C-130. This may be the first time large aerial firefighting assets have been used in the state. The Fire Service felt it was necessary to warn the residents to “not be alarmed” when they saw the air tankers “flying a bit low over the coast”.
Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, an L-382G, was deployed from the Australian mainland to Tasmania to help deal with the numerous bushfires across the state. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service reported that the aircraft is likely to remain there for a number of days.
Known in the United States as Air Tanker 132 and down under as “Thor”, it is seen in this video posted by the New South Wales Rural Fire Service building retardant line out ahead of the Terraborra North Fire in the Hawkesbury local government area.
Coulson’s Tanker 132, known in Australia as “Thor”, has arrived in Palembang, Indonesia with a lead plane (in smoky conditions) to assist with the numerous large fires in the area. Local crews are preparing it for water dropping missions northeast of Palembang.
The photos were supplied by Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, which has the air tanker under contract during the Australian summer but has loaned it to Indonesia for a week or so.
On September 1 Coulson’s Tanker 132 (an L-382G civilian version of Lockheed’s C-130) began an aerial firefighting contract in New South Wales, Australia. Next week NSW will loan it to the government of Indonesia to help fight some of the massive wildfires that have been smoking up the skies, creating health concerns downwind.
Below is information about the deployment provided by Shane Fitzsimmons, Commissioner of the NSW Rural fire Service:
Following a request from Indonesia, the NSW RFS will be deploying Thor, our C130 Hercules Large Air Tanker (LAT), to assist with forest fire fighting in the regions of Borneo and Sumatra this coming week. Following the approval of our Minister David Elliott and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, tomorrow morning, a number of senior NSW RFS personnel will join officers from EMA and DFAT and depart for the region to prepare for the deployment. A number of aviation specialists from NSW and other States will also be deployed to support the LAT. The five day deployment is scheduled for departure early in the week, probably Tuesday pending final clearances.
Our VLAT, Southern Belle the DC10, will remain in NSW along with more than 100 other aircraft on call if needed. Should there be an unexpected change in current weather forecast, Thor can be recalled in 24-48 hours. I thank the NSW and Federal Governments and departments for their outstanding efforts in assisting with coordinating and managing this urgent request. Thanks to all involved and best wishes to all those deployed over coming days – stay safe.
The second air tanker from North America has arrived in New South Wales for their summer bushfire season. Tanker 910, one of three DC-10s operated by 10 Tanker Air Carrier, arrived on September 28 after flying from Albuquerque, New Mexico. The aircraft flew at 28,000 feet and 512 mph in between stops for fuel at Hawaii and Pago Pago. It dropped into Brisbane, Australia to go through customs and is expected to arrive at RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney at 10:08 p.m. US Mountain Time on September 28.
Tanker 910 joins Tanker 132, an L-382 Hercules operated by Coulson, which has been down under since the first part of September. New South Wales has contracted for the two of them to help ground-based firefighters during the Australian summer. They will be stationed at RAAF Base Richmond in Sydney.
Coulson says the L-382 has their latest Coulson SMART 4,400-gallon (16,655 liter) retardant tank system. The DC-10 carries 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters).
Victoria will have two large air tankers under contract again this summer, beginning in November unless they are needed earlier. A year ago during Australia’s 2014-2015 summer two large air tankers from North America were under contract in the state, Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, and Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ-85. The two aircraft dropped more than a million liters (264,000 gallons) of fire retardant across the state, completing 81 drops across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia.
A year ago during Australia’s 2014-2015 summer two large air tankers from North America were under contract in Victoria, Australia, Coulson’s Tanker 131, a C-130Q, and Conair’s Tanker 162, an RJ-85. The two aircraft dropped more than a million liters of fire retardant across the state, completing 81 drops across Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. Victoria will have two large air tankers under contract again this summer, beginning in November unless they are needed earlier.
Australia’s Minister of Defence, ABC News, and ASD News reported that this year the New South Wales Rural Fire Service is “trialling” two air tankers, a DC-10 and Coulson’s Tanker 132 (an L-382G which is a civilian stretched version of a C-130).
T-132 is already in Australia and earlier this week performed a practice or demonstration water drop near Richmond air base in northwest Sydney where it will be based until early December. The aircraft is under contract with the RFS for two fire seasons.
Coulson says the L-382 has their latest Coulson SMART 4,400-gallon retardant tank system. The DC-10 carries 11,600 gallons (44,000 liters).
RAAF Base Richmond will be used to provide airfield support services to the air tankers in NWS from September 1 until January 20, 2016.
According to the Department of Defence:
Defence is providing a number of services including aircraft parking and security, access to fuel and refueling facilities, equipment storage, use of resources including water, aircrew office space, and meals and accommodation for up to 20 people, as required. Facilitating the aircraft at RAAF Base Richmond is intended to maximize aircraft utility and provide access to all areas of NSW in the event of a bushfire emergency.
Portions of Australia have the potential to face an above normal bushfire season.
Below is an an outlook for the 2015-2016 bushfire season in Australia, from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and the AFAC:
“Large areas of southern Australia, especially along the east and west coasts extending inland, face above normal fire potential for the 2015-2016 fire season, despite many fires in some parts of the country over the last 12 months. The above normal forecast is mostly due to a strengthening El Nino over the Pacific Ocean, currently tracking as one of the strongest on record, but is made more complex this year by the influence of warmer sea temperatures in the Indian Ocean.
There have also been significantly below average rainfalls over the last decade across almost all of eastern Australia, the west coast and Tasmania. Such underlying dry conditions mean that any surface moisture from recent rains will quickly decline once temperatures begin to warm. 2014 was Australia’s third warmest year since records began and, when combined with such long term rainfall deficiencies, an early start to the bushfire season is likely in many areas.
The Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook is used by fire authorities to make strategic decisions on resource planning and prescribed fire management for the upcoming fire season.”