The new 737 LAT, Marie Bashir, has made her maiden water drop over the Port Macquarie fire in an attempt to contain the burning peat across a large area of wetland.
The aircraft is named after Dame Marie Bashir, the former and first female Governor of NSW.
The fire flared up again on Thursday afternoon (August 8) with the onset of increasing winds, prompting the call for airborne assistance. No properties are under threat, according to a NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesperson
“The Lindfield Park Road fire, which has been burning for two weeks now, has flared up again in the winds this afternoon as we expected,” the spokesperson said.
The fire remains behind containment lines and is under control.
“Because the area is so hard to access and firefighters cannot get in and walk on the peat we are sending a large air tanker up to knock the edge off.”
“This will be the first ever flight to an active fire for this air tanker.”
Because of the sensitive habitat around Lindfield Park Road, the LAT will only drop water rather than fire retardant.
One drop of water will be made and then the NSW RFS will determine if the LAT requires refilling.
The LAT departs its Richmond base full of water and can be over Port Macquarie within 45 minutes.
Mid Coast RFS Superintendent Kam Baker said the water drop will not extinguish the blaze and they are currently assessing what needs to be done over the next few weeks to manage it in the event of no rain.
“We still have a lot of fire burning within the containment line and we want to quieten it down,” Supt Baker said.
“The wind has put a lot of pressure on those containment lines. Over the next couple of days residents can expect to see increased levels of smoke.”
There are currently up to 35 firefighters on the ground at the site during peak burning times.
“It is a significant wetland that is drought-affected and we currently are looking at what options we have to finally extinguish it. Whatever we do is going to take a while,” Supt Baker said.
Meanwhile, NSW Health is issuing warnings to residents to take action to protect their health while smoke continues to affect air quality.
Continued monitoring of air quality affected by smoke from the Lindfield Park Road bushfire, private burn offs and domestic fireplaces is indicating overnight readings ranging between fair and very poor in the Port Macquarie area.
Director of the North Coast Public Health Unit Paul Corben said residents in the Port Macquarie area should take advantage of periods of good air quality between mid-morning and early evening to open windows and doors to clear smoke from within their homes.
“If it looks smoky outside, stay indoors if possible until the air clears and if you are outside, avoid strenuous exercise or and heavy work,” Mr Corben said.
At the request of NSW Health and the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA), the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) has established a mobile air quality monitoring pod in Port Macquarie.
The EPA is liaising with NSW Health, DPIE, Port Macquarie-Hastings Council and NSW RFS to provide advice and support around air quality.
“Residents are being asked to assist with reducing smoke in the area, where possible, by avoiding private burns and reducing the use of domestic fireplaces,” Mr Corben said.