Last drop for firebombing helicopters

26 March 2019

Victoria’s night firebombing helicopters have completed their last operation for 2018-19 after successfully deploying to multiple fires across the state. 

Two helicopters, which were based at Ballarat and Mangalore, were deployed to 13 fires, firebombing over 20 nights following the first deployment in January at the Rosedale fire. 

Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said Rosedale was a great early example of a fire that could benefit from night operations.

“All indications show our night firebombing operations across the summer season went well and the trial is proving to be very beneficial,” he said.

“The trial has been about testing our safety procedures and there will be opportunities to learn from what we’ve achieved over summer. 

“We will continue to debrief and determine what our next steps are, part of that is to look strategically, and based on risk, where and how we look at building our capacity.”

Night operations are used as an extension of day aircraft operations, meaning aircraft can assist ground crews on fires for longer. All 13 fires where night firebombing occurred, there was extensive air and firefighting resources operating 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. 

Project Manager Wayne Rigg said a critical part of the future of night firebombing was continuing to build the capability in Victoria. 

“Night firebombing supports firefighters to meet objectives to protect life and property and provides us with another tool in the toolbox that wasn’t previously available to help keep communities safe. 

“We must continue to work together and ensure we can undertake night firebombing safely and effectively.” 

The night firebombing project was recognised last week at the International Aerial Firefighting Awards 2019 in the innovation and advancement category with partners Kestrel and Coulson. 

It was awarded jointly, as it recognises the collaborative project and work done together in developing safe and effective practices for aerial firefighting at night using helicopters equipped with night vision systems in Victoria.