NSW firefighters assist with wildfires in Tasmania

Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald

Firefighters in New South Wales have traveled across the Bass Strait to assist their brothers and sisters in Tasmania. The five personnel will be working with the Tasmania Fire Service, specifically on the Gell River Fire in the southwest part of the state. The deployment of five arrived Sunday to assume specialist aviation roles operating out of Hobart and Strathgordon.

Map Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia
Map showing the location of the Gell River Fire in Tasmania, Australia.

The Gell River Fire has burned 50,600 acres (20,500 ha) primarily in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Portions of the fire are burning in peat, which means the deep-seated blaze will likely persist for months and continue to produce smoke.

Below is an update on the fire from the Tasmania Fire Service:

The fire continues to burn in buttongrass and mixed forest vegetation in the Vale of Rasselas, approximately 10 kilometres northwest of Tim Shea and along the Denison Range and Gordon Range. A sprinkler line around the northern side of Lake Rhona was successful in protecting fire-sensitive vegetation communities. Fire fighters and aerial water-bombing also managed to protect these vegetation communities in other areas.

Specialist remote area fire fighters are working in rugged terrain to extinguish the fire. Although the fire is still uncontained, suppression operations conducted by fire fighters and water bombing aircraft have been successful to date, with many active fire edges minimised.
An increase in smoke may be visible in the Greater Hobart area, Derwent Valley and Huon Valley on Tuesday evening and Wednesday due to increased fire activity, particularly at the southern end of the fire.

Resources currently deployed to the Gell River bushfire include 60 personnel and eight aircraft.

Tasmania Fire Service
Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania helicopter
Photo by Andrew MacDonald
Gell River Fire Tasmania
Gell River Fire. Photo by Andrew MacDonald
This image of smoke from the Gell River Fire was captured by a satellite on January 4, 2019. Since then the activity has decreased due to a change in the weather. The red dots indicate heat detected by the satellite.

Large air tankers assisting with bushfires in Tasmania

DC-10 Tasmania fire
A DC-10 air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.

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”.

In recent days some of the air tankers have departed from Avalon, near Melborne, and returned there after dropping retardant. Last month a portable retardant base was set up in northeast Tasmania at Launceston.

The video below shows the DC-10 dropping retardant out ahead of a fire in Tasmania. It is courtesy of Wayne Rigg of the Country Fire Authority.

c-130 air tanker Tasmania
A C-130 air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.

air tanker Tasmania
An air tanker working a fire in Tasmania February 12, 2016. Tasmania Fire Service photo.

large air tankers in Australia
The National Aerial Firefighting Centre created this poster illustrating the North American Air Tankers that are working in Australia during their 2015/2016 bushfire season.

Coulson’s Air Tanker 132, an L-382G, first began helping the Tasmanians January 26 and was reloading at the temporary fire retardant base installed in Launceston.

T-132 in Tasmania

More information about the bushfires in Tasmania is at Wildfire Today.

Tanker 132 deployed to Tasmania

tanker 132
Tanker 132, an L-382, prepares to deploy to Tasmania. NWS RFS photo.

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.

T-132 in Tasmania

A Fire Dragon in Tasmania

fire dragon Tasmania
Forestry operations officer Bob Knox takes the controls of the fire dragon from Forestry officer Doug Johnson. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON (click to enlarge)

I ran across this photo that accompanied an article in The Examiner about a prescribed fire in Tasmania, Australia. The caption is as it appeared in the article. Can anyone explain what a “fire dragon” is? I’m thinking it must be an aerial ignition device, but I’m wondering why the helicopter is hovering instead of landing in order to apparently transfer a hand-held device between the two people in the photo.