Australia — A YARRA Glen resident whose house was saved by a firefighting helicopter on Black Saturday is alarmed the State Government has slashed its firefighting air fleet.
The Government has cut one of its three giant air crane helicopters and two planes capable of dumping thousands of litres of water on major fires.
Chris Wilson said he could not understand the cutback.
I can see that in this economy that you wouldnt expand the fleet, but to cut it back is a very stupid move, he said.
I dont think well get another fire like Black Saturday for a long time, but theres still plenty of bush thats vulnerable.
As reported in the Leader (February 9, 2009), the ferocious fire storm came within metres of Mr Wilsons house in one of the worst-hit areas, Steels Creek Rd.
Fortunately, a helicopter dumped tonnes of water on the property, saving the house and probably the lives of Mr Wilson and friends who stayed behind to support him.
Bushfire Response Minister Peter Ryan said Victoria was preparing for different fire conditions and helicopters were not as suited to predicted grass fires..
I want to ensure Victorians the states 41-strong aerial firefighting fleet comprises the right mix of aircraft that reflects the risks this season, which are different from previous years, Mr Ryan said.
The big gun in the states firefighting air fleet, an Erickson S-64 Air-Crane Helitanker leased by the Government from the US and known as Elvis, arrived back in Victoria last week.
Mr Ryan said the Government would invest $11 million in aircraft availability.
Department of Sustainability and Environment chief officer Ewan Waller said he was comfortable with the size of the fleet.
Weve got a very good, solid, sound base fleet located in the right places so we believe well be able to strategically move the aircraft to cover the risk as the season develops, Mr Waller said.