The federal government of Australia is committing an additional $11 million to beef up the nation’s aerial firefighting capability. The extra funding will supplement the $14.9 million existing budget to bring the total up to nearly $26 million. The southern hemisphere has just entered their summer, but Australia has been experiencing an extremely high level of wildfire activity for at least a month. The one large air tanker that the government owned, a 737 purchased last Spring, was busy off and on for much of the winter assisting firefighters on the ground.
The National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC) will be able to decide how to spend the money, which will be sent to the organization as a grant immediately.
The NAFC had originally planned to contract for five large air tankers brought in from North America, but after numerous fires and severe criticism from former fire chiefs, they hired two more, with one of them being a DC-10 very large air tanker.
Before the infusion of the additional funds, Australia had 63 fixed wing and 45 rotor wing aircraft devoted to fire suppression. There are an additional 51 aircraft used for other fire-related missions.
The minister for natural disasters, David Littleproud, said the additional funding would allow lease periods of firefighting aircraft to be extended.
“It is clear we are facing longer and more intense seasons, and as this summer has only just begun we have already seen devastating fires tear through communities right across the country,” Littleproud said.
“Sadly, bushfires are part of the Australian landscape and while we cannot always prevent them, we can prepare for them and ensure that we are responding in the most effective way.”