TWO water-bombing aircraft will be based at Hamilton to help fight fires in the Wimmera during the summer fire season.
Horsham and District Country Fire Authority operations officer Trevor Ebbels said whenever CFA crews were called to a fire, two aircraft would be automatically dispatched from Hamilton.
“Any grass or scrub fires within an area from Dadswells Bridge to Pimpinio and from Pimpinio to along the boundaries of the Little Desert will have two fire-fighting bombers dispatched for each call,” he said.
The fixed-wing water bombers can carry up to 3200 litres of fire retardant slurry or foam.
The bombers are in addition to two fire-fighting air cranes that will be stationed at Stawell throughout the fire season and more supporting aircraft can be called if needed.
Mr Ebbels said the automatic dispatch would be set on a fire danger index.
“We are yet to have discussions on what the index will be set at,” he said.
He said the Hamilton aircraft would be treated the same as fire trucks.
“If the crew doesn’t require them, they will be turned away,” he said.
“It will enhance our capabilities to fight grass and scrub fires.”
Mr Ebbels said the automatically dispatched aircraft were trialled in Bendigo last summer with a helicopter.
“It proved successful and the CFA received positive feedback,” he said.
“As a result, the trial has been extended for this fire season.”
He predicted the aircraft would be well used in the Wimmera.
“From our experience last year, we dispatched aircraft out of Stawell quite a bit, although they weren’t automatically dispatched,” he said.
“That certainly proved beneficial and helped reduce the impact of fires in the region.”
Mr Ebbels said the aircraft did not put out fires but assisted crews in containing fires.
He said the authority was also monitoring the region’s fire risk and expected the fire danger season would be enforced by mid-November.
“There is quite a bit of fuel in the area,” he said.
“The forests are still quite dry, despite the recent rain.”
Powercor is using aircraft to survey potential bushfire risks in western Victoria throughout October.
The light detection and ranging measurement survey will use a laser measuring unit mounted on a helicopter to measure the distance between the ground, power lines and surrounding vegetation.
Powercor regional asset manager Richard Scholten said the inspections were part of an extensive program to identity and fix any potential bushfire risks.
“Overall, these helicopters will travel more than 9000 kilometres across central and western Victoria,” he said.
“Data from each flight is extensively analysed and any areas found to be at risk will be recorded and followed up for action,” he said.