East Sale’s pivotal role

RAAF Base, East Sale, is playing a pivotal role in responding to the bushfire crisis.

The base is the central hub for the Australian Defence Force response in southern areas, and has been used as a staging point to receive flights evacuating people from Mallacoota.

More than 170 people were evacuated by rotary and fixed wing aircraft on Sunday, and sorties continued until all people who wished to evacuate had been transported to RAAF Base, East Sale.

On Tuesday, the ADF recommenced aviation activities, including evacuating people from Mallacoota, providing satellite phones to cut-off communities, and distributing stores to isolated areas.

HMAS Choules has been in the immediate vicinity to assist the evacuation.

The ADF has delivered 18,000 litres of fuel to Omeo for generators powering the town.

Working with state authorities, Defence has been flying in emergency food, water, fuel and medical supplies as required to 18 cut-off communities.

Eight communities were visited on Sunday, with an additional 10 on Monday.

On Monday, the Army deployed a Small Unmanned Aerial System (Wasp) to RAAF Base, East Sale, to conduct reconnaissance operations.

On Tuesday, the Joint Task Force began preparing a staging area for about 100 international firefighters in the Omeo area.

Two S-70A Black Hawk helicopters and one MRH-90 Taipan helicopter are currently based out of East Sale, and have been involved in transporting firefighters around the fire grounds, evacuating injured and vulnerable people from hazardous locations and delivering critical equipment to where it is needed, including the Bremm River and Genoa areas.

Four CH-47F Chinook helicopters are operating from the base, and have been providing support to firefighting operations and humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.

Two Singapore Armed Forces CH-47 Chinooks have arrived at RAAF Base, East Sale, and are being prepared to start their support role in Victoria.

As part of the massive operation, the Joint Task Force is also providing engineering personnel and equipment to help clear and reopen roads in fireaffected areas of Victoria, as well as other general engineering tasks like removing debris from public areas and clearing fire breaks and fire trails.

The ADF is also providing support to the Victorian state authorities to undertake rapid damage assessments in regional Victoria, and is bolstering search and rescue assessment capacity with additional vehicles and drivers.

Air Force air traffic controllers are providing flight information at the Bairnsdale Airport, to support local authorities managing the high volume of air traffic currently using the airport.

RAAF Base, East Sale is also preparing to provide accommodation if required.

The Royal Australian Air Force will establish a medical facility at the base and provide pastoral care.

With significant effects on livestock, the ADF will provide support for livestock disposal in affected areas, at the request of state authorities and where the ADF’s unique capabilities are best suited.

The ADF has also made a call-out for up to 3000 Reserve personnel. There are currently more than 1200 Reservists attached to the three joint task forces, and the number is growing daily.

They will be deployed throughout New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria as part of Operation Bushfire Assist.

The ADF has described the bushfire crisis as its main effort, with several thousand full time and reserve personnel providing direct support in the field, at sea, in the air, and from Defence bases across fire-affected regions.