Victoria’s summer aircraft firefighting trial will become a permanent statewide resource using night-vision technology in time for summer 2018-19.
Acting Minister for Emergency Services Gayle Tierney announced on Tuesday, April 3 that after-dark water bombing would be rolled by next summer.
“When fire strikes, every second counts. From next summer, our hardworking emergency services personnel will be able to fight fires around the clock,” Teirney said.
Earlier this year, the government launched a trial out of Ballarat Airport involving two aircraft, where one conducted reconnaissance flights during the day, and another collected water to drop on a series of controlled fires and targets after dark.
The method involves the use of night-vision goggles to aid pilots, ensuring authorities are fighting fire fronts around the clock.
Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) will work with the operators on how night-time water bombing can be deployed alongside the suite of on-ground and aerial measures already employed to keep Victorians and their properties safe.
EMV Commissioner Craig Lapsley supports the trial.
“We need to ensure we have the right systems in place that will support night firebombing to be a safe practice and that our crews in the air and on the ground are working together effectively,” Lapsley said.
The fleet includes 49 fixed-wing, water-bombing, air supervision and aerial intelligence aircraft.
Victoria is the only state to operate water-bombing aircraft as an immediate response or pre-determined dispatch, following a recommendation of the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
Firefighting aircraft can be heard departing on Ballarat’s Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF) of 127.7500 MHz AM.