Australia: FIREFIGHTERS preparing for the upcoming bushfire season will have access to a state-of-the art incendiary bombing helicopter to conduct night-time fuel reduction in bushfire prone areas.
Department of Sustainability and Environment chief fire officer Ewen Waller said the helicopter was first trialled earlier this year and was now waiting for final approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.
The helicopter will be used to drop incendiary bombs in areas where there is a need to tightly control fire behaviour, Mr Waller said.
Flights would take place at night and a navigator equipped with night vision goggles will drop an incendiary device to start controlled burns in inaccessible areas.
The new equipment allows operators to clearly see roads and landmarks at night to better direct and control fires. Mr Waller couldnt confirm how close to towns or in what areas the equipment would be used.
The Bushfires Royal Commission recommended an increase in annual fuel reduction burns target from 130,000 to 385,000 hectares.
In its response the commissions final report, the State Government committed to a gradual increase in burns target to 275,000 hectares over the next four years.
A review would then take place to work out the best way to reach the 385,000-hectare target within two years.
Mitchell Shire CFA members welcomed the increase fuel reduction, but warned it would only be effective if burns took place in the right place at the right time.
Kilmore CFA Captain Greg Murphy said fuel reduction around Kilmore would begin in late October once weather conditions and fuel moisture was suitable.
There is still some work to do to prioritise our fuel reduction and we will be working with the State Government and the DSE to determine that, he said.
For now, we are preparing as we normally do to ensure we have the appropriate standards to protect our area.
Wallan CFA Captain Peter Roylance also welcomed the extra fuel reduction, but the work will depend on weather conditions.
Its OK to set targets, but if the weather doesnt allow that to happen there will be a shortfall, Capt Roylance said.
The issue this year if things dry out will be the amount of grass growth. I think there will be a lot more grassfires than we have seen in the last decade.
Capt Roylance said the Wallan brigade had also seen a swell in numbers this year with 18 new recruits joining since the start of the year. The Kilmore brigade had a net gain of 10 volunteers since Black Saturday.