EMERGENCY Services Minister Carmel Zollo will not push for a giant “Elvis” firefighting helicopter to be based in South Australia. That comes despite calls from the state’s west for the protection it would provide.
Ms Zollo says the state has access to 13 firefighting aircraft and can call for the skycrane if it is needed.
The Federal Government has approved plans for funding to lease a third of the giant “Elvis” skycranes.
Two others already are scheduled to be based in Sydney and Melbourne. The third is expected to be shared between SA, Victoria, Tasmania and NSW.
Ms Zollo said the states shared aerial firefighting resources and the skycrane was not the “be all and end all”.
“Everybody needs to be prepared in terms of bushfire prevention,” she said. “We also have our tremendous firefighters.” Port Lincoln residents, however, are frustrated at the Government’s reluctance to have the aircraft based here, following a bushfire near the town last week and the deadly Black Tuesday bushfires last year.
Resident John Ettridge said: “It’s stupid not to have it here. Last week, there were blokes fighting the fire for ages but, as soon as the two planes came and dropped water on it, it was out.”
Adelle Kraft, said the skycrane could save more lives and property if it was close.
Ms Zollo said that although the helicopter was considered extremely effective “we have never used a crane in SA”. “It was brought over in 2003 on a day of extreme fire danger and was never used,” she said. She had not had any approach from the Country Fire Service to have the crane stationed in SA.