Night firebombing deployed for the first time in Australia

The two night fire suppression helicopters from Ballarat and Mangalore were sent to the Rosedale fire in Gippsland and operated for a few hours overnight within a defined area of 500 hectares.  Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said the helicopters were deployed as part of the continuing trial into night fire suppression operations in Victoria.

Under the operational requirements, the two helicopters from Coulson and Kestrel, undertook surveillance of the Rosedale fire area in the afternoon to understand the terrain, determine any obstacles and the ability to operate from suitable water supplies near the fire.

Mr Crisp said the night fire helicopters were two of 69 helicopters and fixed-wing planes operating over Friday. The night fire suppression accredited helicopters are the only ones that can fly on fires at night in Australia.  He added that the Rosedale fire was a good example of a fire that could benefit from night operations and indications were that the operation went well, with further opportunities to learn.

Night fire operations are used as an extension of day aircraft operations, meaning aircraft can assist ground crews on fires for longer. The Rosedale fire had extensive air and firefighting resources on it during the day.

Night firebombing will only occur on fires where it can add value to fire operations, or in circumstances where the experience can help build or improve the night firebombing capability. The Rosedale fire is at just over 10,000 hectares.

This summer the focus of the night firebombing trial is to test procedures and operations on fires.

Jeremy Parkin