More choppers for fire season


Port Lincoln Airport will now house six water-bomber aircraft over the fire season – two more than last year – as the Country Fire Service (CFS) fleet increases from 26 to 31.

Adding to the existing two fixed wing aircraft and two observation aircraft, Port Lincoln Airport now permanently has an additional single-engine fixed-wing aircraft and an additional Black Hawk.

CFS Region Six acting regional operations manager Adrian Parente said the Black Hawk touched down in Port Lincoln last week and that a crew would be in Port Lincoln for the fire season, with the ability of being able to get in the air within a matter of minutes in case of a fire emergency.

“In the context of having the availability of these aircraft, previously we had the ability to deliver 6000 litres in the first drop, two fixed-wings could deliver 3000 litres per load,” he said.

“With the extra crafts we can do about 13,000 litres in the first drop, which is a significant difference – that’s with the extra fixed-wing and the Black Hawk, which can drop about 4500 litres.

“Four of the six aircrafts can actually drop, last season we only had two. We also have a lot more flexibility with the Black Hawk as it can refill from static water supplies nearby instead of coming back to Port Lincoln Airport.”

Mr Parente said the bombers were important.

“The bombers do a fantastic job which we saw in the Port Lincoln fire in February, they actually slowed down and helped stop the spread and helped protect assets and life,” he said.

“Our volunteers on the ground are the ones that have to put the fires out, these teams can work even better together with these increased resources.”

Mr Parente said future fire seasons would be worse, so the CFS needed as many resources as possible moving forward, which he said the government was effectively providing.

Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs was in Port Lincoln last Friday and inspected the first Black Hawk aerial firefighting helicopter.

In the event there is a fire emergency elsewhere in South Australia, some of the aircraft stationed at Port Lincoln Airport would be required to deploy and assist.

Elsewhere in the state is a soon-to-be deployed Multi-mission Eurocopter Squirrel – the helicopter also has the added capability of static refilling; hovering over a dam or lake as needed, a quicker and more agile way to manoeuvre in fire emergencies.