As the clouds drift away, the frequency of rain decreases and the sun beats down on the earth, the spectre of grass and bush fires looms.
Once upon a time grass and bushfires menaced mainly country towns, however with the proliferation of “urban sprawl” to the edge of the green wedge, the threat of loss of life and/or property damage in urban fringe areas is much greater.
In Victoria the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) together with the Country Fire Authority (CFA), share aircraft resources to provide fire patrol, spotting, reporting and suppression roles.
Aircraft tasking and co-ordination is managed through the Aircraft Services Unit (ASU).
As aircraft are “tagged” with an operations callsign and not a callsign derived from their registration letters or numbers, it is sometimes difficult to know what type of aircraft is being deployed.
As a guideline here are typical callsigns and their roles:
Helitak (Helicopters) – Type 1 (heavy) & Type 2 (medium) helicopters. Type 1 typically Erikson S64F Aircrane, Sikorsky S61 Type 2 typically Bell 205,212 or 412, Bolkow BK117
Firebird (Helicopters) – Type 3 (light) helicopters – typically Bell 207L, Bell 206B, AS350B Squirrel
Bomber (Fixed wing) – Various sizes from Air Tractor 802, PZL Dromader to RJ95 (jet), C130 Hercules and Douglas DC-10.
Firescan (Fixed wing) – scan fire area’s/hotspots and provide intelligence to ground incident control crews including fire mapping. Usually twin engine aircraft such as Beech 200. Scanning conducted at height above the fire area by flying fixed patterns well above air attack traffic.
Birddog – fixed wing aircraft tasked to sit above fire situations and safely co-ordinate helicopter and fixed wing aircraft fire bombing as air attack supervisors. Desireable to have multi-engine aircraft but single engine also used.
Firespotter (Fixed wing) – intelligence gathering aircraft, normally single engine but may be multiple engine. Aircraft supplement fire spotting towers by patrolling fire regions to assess fire danger and early warning alert of any fires spotted.
Media (Helicopters) – television helicopters deployed to gather footage of fire situations for news bulletins.
For the latest information on available and deployed aircraft, visit the following link and once there click on the heading “Current dispatch”.
Additional aircraft may be utilized subject to operational requirements, so it pays to check the current aircraft deployments and locations from time to time.
Firefighting and observation aircraft are sourced from a variety of air services companies, including Australiasian Jet at Hangar 81 Essendon Airport.