Australia — A new Fire King helicopter – four times the size of the usual airborne firefighters – is in WA on trial from the US. The Sunday Times understands an official unveiling of the aircraft will take place week to mark the beginning of a 110-day aerial bushfire assault throughout the state.
Capable of carrying 15 firefighters and able to spray 4000 litres of water on fires, the super chopper from Oregon will be used in tandem with four other helicopters and eight fixed-winged aircraft to fight fires.
It is understood the State Government has been monitoring trials for a year and the Fire King has been brought here by Helicopters Australia which has facilities at Perth airport.
It is described as the perfect firefighting machine capable of rapidly and accurately delivering water to fire-ravaged areas and able to transport more than two dozen firefighters at great speed.
“The funding for it is 50 per cent state and 50 per cent national,” a source said. Perth-based Helicopters Australia confirmed the Fire King’s arrival, but declined to give further details.
Emergency Services Minister John Kobelke also declined to comment.
Fire and Emergency Services officers and personnel from the Department of Environment and Conservation are preparing for firestorms this summer.
The DEC has attended more than 70 fires in the South-West in recent weeks and bigger fires are anticipated because of big volumes of dry fuel lying on forest beds, and expected high temperatures.
About 100,000ha of bush had been cleared in prescribed burns and another 100,000ha was scheduled for burning next year.
DEC fire manager Terry Maher said he would have staff on call over Christmas-New Year. Mr Maher said DEC had invested heavily in new communications equipment, as well as additional fire trucks and heavy earthmoving equipment.
“We have pre-formed incident management teams that we can deploy to any part of the state within eight hours,” he said.
“These teams include experienced staff that fulfil the major roles of incident controller and operations, planning and logistics officers, as well as a variety of management support roles.
“There are around 50 people on each team and additional staff can be brought in, depending on the scale of any particular incident.
“New equipment includes satellite-based internet systems (which) mean we can have more efficient communications with the fire crews.
“DEC’s control centres can now email maps and other vital information direct to the forward control point.
“It’s all about being prepared. Response time is critical in respect to bushfires.” Share this article