Australia — Predictions Western Australia is facing one of its worst bushfire seasons in decades has prompted the government to lease two US water bombing helicopters a month early.
Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson said the Type 1 helicopters, which can dump 4000 litres of water at a time, had been brought back earlier than last year to enhance the aerial fleet.
The news comes just days after a fire, believed to have been lit by arsonists, burnt more than 500 hectares of bushland in Karnup, south of Perth, and threatened lives and homes.
Mr Johnson said the Bureau of Meteorology had informed him WA was facing one of its worst bushfire seasons and that, combined with the Karnup fire, demonstrated the need to boost the state’s aerial firefighting capacity.
“The government is committed to protecting West Australians from bushfires and it’s imperative that firefighters have all the necessary resources ready to respond,” he said.
The Type 1 water bombing helicopters can drop four times the amount of water compared to the Helitac water bombers and can carry up to 15 firefighters and equipment.
People reporting bushfires via triple-zero calls will also come under greater scrutiny by the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) with callers to be phoned back for further information.
Mr Johnson said its aim is to catch arsonists who tended to stick around and report the bushfires they had had started.
“What we have found is that some of these people, these sick people, who start fires, do get some sort of pleasure out of phoning triple-zero and reporting those fires,” he told ABC on Sunday.
“If there’s somebody that’s seen, who’s been consistently phoning triple-zero to report a fire and there has been a fire, or even if there hasn’t been a fire, if we get any hoax calls, which we do get some, then those people will be visited.”