Australia — A VITAL firefighting aircraft remained grounded in Melbourne as a grassfire threatened farms east of Bendigo on Boxing Day.
The Firebird 307, dubbed the “eye in the sky”, is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to feed information to incident controllers and ground commanders.
The aircraft is able to stream live video and has mapping and imagery capabilities that can be sent directly to the fire agencies’ mapping program, providing real-time information.
While Thursday’s blaze was outside the aircraft’s primary zone, it can be sent to its secondary response zone when needed.
A whistleblower with more than a decade’s experience yesterday said the aircraft should have been deployed to the Boxing Day grassfire as it was the only significant fire burning in the state that day.
“It just sat there at Moorabbin and didn’t even turn a blade,” the source said.
“If it can add another level of information to keep the community safe and give them information, then it should be used. The idea of this aircraft is that it gives timely information to incident controllers to help them fight fires. You can’t tell me that it wouldn’t have helped, given it was the only fire in the state that day.
“It’s called the ‘eye in the sky’, but what’s the point if it’s sitting on the ground in Melbourne?”
But a CFA spokeswoman insisted that the Firebird 307 was not required at the blaze, near Toolleen.
“There were already six aircraft including planes, helicopters and an aircrane, and over 200 firefighters on the ground,” the spokeswoman said. “This was considered to be sufficient resources to control the fire.”
The 1100ha fire threatened homes and burned through 8ha of vines and killed about 200 sheep.
With Saturday’s predicted top of 38C, a total fire ban was declared in seven of Victoria’s nine fire districts.