A RECORD number of firefighting aircraft have touched down in Gippsland to help protect communities and the environment from bushfires this summer.

This season’s fleet has been bolstered by the addition of a Type 1 Helitak helicopter, which will help Forest Fire Management Victoria (FFMVic), Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) respond quickly to fires.

FFMVic Gippsland’s Peter Brick said having 11 dedicated aircraft ready to respond should be a comfort to everyone in the region.

“These planes and helicopters give us a faster response time, especially in remote areas, which is crucial in getting on top of fires before they can spread,” Mr Brick said.

“It also gives us more flexibility in getting rappel crews onto the ground to control fires and helps with the protection of homes and other assets on private land.”

“This air fleet is an increasingly important tool in helping to protect private and public land, so adding to that capability this season will further improve our ability to contain fires while they are small.”

CFA Gippsland Regional Commander Mike Owen said the firefighting aircraft coordinate with ground operations in protecting people and property.

“With the fire season in Gippsland upon us again, CFA is relying on the rapid dispatch of firefighting aircraft to fires in support of our communities,” Mr Owen said.

“The multi-agency Pre-Determined Dispatch (PDD) system dispatches aircraft at the same time as CFA brigades are paged for any bush or scrub fire during days of elevated fire danger.

“This coordinated effort by ground and air resources is extremely efficient and quick, and can make an invaluable difference to the damage a fire could do. It is a system that can save properties and potentially lives.”

Aircraft are strategically placed across the state and can be moved quickly to respond to threats to life and property.

Gippsland’s firefighting air-fleet consists of the following.

 

Latrobe Valley Airbase

Helitak (Type 1 large volume helicopter) – this is the first year Gippsland has a dedicated Type 1 helicopter. It carries up to 3400L of water and is one of the fastest helicopters available in Victoria. It can carry up to 18 passengers.

Helitak (Type 2 medium volume helicopter) – carries 1500L of water.

Firebird (Type 3 light helicopter) – air attack supervision and aerial reconnaissance.

Firebird (Type 3 light helicopter) – used for firebombing, primarily used for protecting plantation forests in Central Gippsland.

 

Heyfield Helibase

Helitak (Type 2 medium helicopter) – primarily for inserting rappel crews into remote areas. It has a belly tank for dropping water.

Rappel Crew – remote area firefighters trained to rappel from aircraft to quickly attack remote fires and keep them small.

 

Bairnsdale Airbase

Two fixed wing bombers – carry 3200L of water or retardant.

Firebird (Type 3 light helicopter) – air attack supervision and aerial reconnaissance.

Birddog (small fixed wing plane) – air attack supervision and fire spotting.

 

Benambra Airbase

Two fixed wing bombers – can carry 2300L of water or retardant.