Australia Joint media release: The Hon Michael Keenan MP and Mick Gentleman MLA
Minister for Police and Emergency Services Mick Gentleman and Federal Minister for Justice Michael Keenan today welcomed the ACTs aerial fire fighting capability.
Minister Keenan said the Australian Government invests $14.8 million each year through the National Aerial Fire fighting Centre (NAFC) to support states and territories and ensure Australians and our fire fighters are protected by the best aerial fire fighting aircraft possible.
The NAFC is an effective and cooperative national approach to disasters, providing specialised aircraft that might otherwise be out of reach for the smaller jurisdictions, Mr Keenan said.
This years national fleet consists of 127 specialised aircraft 64 planes and 63 helicopters strategically deployed across Australia to ensure aerial fire fighting resources can be shared between States and Territories during the fire season if the need arises.
During the 2015-16 fire season, NAFC aircraft were activated on almost 5,000 occasions, predominantly for firebombing and emergency support operations. The aircraft also made more than 29,500 firebombing drops, containing more than 68 million litres of fire retardant and suppressant.
Minister Gentleman today inspected the two helicopters based in the ACT to help respond to bushfires over summer.
The ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) has a wide range of resources to use when the Territory is confronted by bushfire threats, Minister Gentleman said.
Having two helicopters based at the ACT Rural Fire Service Helibase at Hume is a key component of our defences. The ACT, through NAFC, contracts one light and one medium type helicopter to provide dedicated aerial fire fighting services to the ACT, Minister Gentleman said.
The medium chopper was called into action to help extinguish a grass fire on the southern end Cooleman Ridge Nature Reserve three weeks ago. Im advised it played a key role in extinguishing that fire, along with 14 fire fighting units on the ground. Both aircraft were also used for fire fighting for an incident at Beard on Monday afternoon.
The helicopters are scheduled to remain here in Canberra until 28 February 2017. The ACT also has the option to extend the arrangement beyond this date if the conditions warrant it.
The ACT can also access a number of other fire fighting aircraft through cooperative arrangements with the NSW Rural Fire Service, or other jurisdictions if needed.
This includes a number of light helicopters being immediately available from within the ACT region and its immediate surrounds, with further light helicopters, medium helicopters and fixed wing bombers available within a two-hour timeframe from further afield, Minister Gentleman said. The large build up of grass fuel on the landscape across the ACT is drying fast and will present a real challenge for our fire fighters over the coming months. Our emergency services have access to the resources they need to keep the community safe, Minister Gentleman concluded.