Victoria’s aerial firefighting fleet gears up for the down-under summer

Like New South Wales, Victoria is getting their firefighting aircraft lined up for the 2016-2017 Australian bushfire season which is getting underway now.

A year ago between Victoria and New South Wales the two states had four large air tankers from North America on contract during their summer; two C-130’s, a DC-10, and an RJ85. It appears the arrangements will be very similar this summer.

From Victoria’s Country Fire Service:


“This year, Victoria will have 48 aircraft available, including five aircraft that have been strategically positioned to support harvesting operations in the Mallee.

Forest Fire Management Victoria Chief Fire Officer Stephanie Rotarangi said: “The first aircraft to come on board this year are the Helitack fire-fighting helicopter at Sea Lake and two single engine air tanker fixed-wing planes at Ouyen, which start today.”

“Another two single engine air tankers will be based at Nhill from November 23. This is the first time this service has been provided at Ouyen and Nhill to support cropping in the north west and west of the state.

“The Bushfire Natural Hazards CRC Seasonal Outlook has predicted an above average fire season for Victoria in 2016-17. The recent rainfall means we can expect increased grass growth and high-yielding crops, particularly in areas like the Mallee.”

The five aircraft will be on pre-determined dispatch which means they are able to respond to fires at the same time as fire trucks do.

CFA Chief Officer Steve Warrington said rapid response in the early stages helps to keep small fires small.

“This summer, we are expanding predetermined dispatch to include another five aircraft to cover Ballarat, Mornington Peninsula, Olinda, Heyfield and Ovens. This means for the 2016-17 season Victoria will have 27 aircraft at 19 locations on immediate response,” he said.

“Victoria’s specialised aircraft fleet is strategically positioned across the state so it is available for a range of different types of fires and terrain to provide the best support possible to our firefighters.”

Tankers 131 132 fire Victoria
Tankers 131 and 132, both on contract in Victoria, February, 2016. T-132 had been on contract earlier with New South Wales; when the contract ended, Victoria picked up the aircraft for the remainder of the Australian summer.  Coulson photo.

Victoria’s aircraft fleet this season will include: 2 Large Air Tankers, 2 Air-Cranes, 27 aircraft on pre-determined dispatch including 2 Sikorsky helicopters and 1 water scooping aircraft,  14 aircraft to provide air attack supervision and reconnaissance, 1 dedicated air intelligence helicopter and 2 infrared line-scanning aircraft.

Major fire operations will be supported by the two Large Air Tankers (LATs), Hercules and RJ which will be based at Avalon Airport and the two air-cranes, Malcolm and Ichabod

The LATs are some of the biggest firefighting aircraft in the world and can hold between 12,000 and 15,000 litres of water, retardant or foam.”