Gearing up for the fire season

TWO of the world’s biggest firefighting aircraft will be back in Victoria this summer to support fire fighters and help protect communities.

Emergency Services Minister James Merlino and Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio have announced $11.1 million to secure two fixed wing large air tankers, an extra Helitak chopper and a support plane for the impending bushfire season.

The extra firefighting aircraft will bolster Victoria’s aviation fleet.

A state government spokesperson said the tankers were the most effective way to drop fire retardant to stop the spread of bushfires, with each tanker carrying more than 12,000 litres of water, retardant or foam.

The spokesperson said a Helitak was more agile and could pick up water from lakes, reservoirs and the ocean, removing the need for it to fly long distances to airports to reload.

The aircraft, announced at the weekend, are in addition to Victoria’s 43-strong firefighting aviation fleet of fixed wing aircraft, helicopters and air cranes.

Firefighting aircraft are suited to rapid attack in the early stages of a grass or bushfire and provide support to on-ground firefighters, along with an extensive fleet of trucks and other specialist appliances.

Victoria’s aircraft, including the large air tankers, can also be called on to help fight significant fires interstate as part of a national agreement between the states.