Night fire aviation recommences for fire season

6 February 2023
Emergency Management Victoria staff standing next to a firebombing helicopter.

Now in its seventh year of operations, Victoria’s Night Fire Aviation Program (NFAP) today recommenced for the
2022–23 fire season.  

The program’s objective is to integrate night operations into the current suite of aircraft services available to manage a fire incident, and to further trial and understand the night aviation capability. It includes both night firebombing and night aerial intelligence-gathering services. 

This season’s 50-strong firefighting fleet welcomed an additional three dedicated night-time aircraft. The program will include two night firebombing helicopters, including the Helitack 346 and the CH47 Chinook, which have already been supporting operations during the day. The helicopters will be supported by an Air Attack Platform and an Air Intelligence Gathering (AIG) aircraft, which will be critical in detecting fires throughout the night.  

Several enhancements have been made to the technology fitted to the Air Attack Platform, including an infra-red high-definition video camera which supports airborne information gathering both during the day and at night. These enhancements will assist operational decision-making and can be streamed to control centres to better inform operations.  

The aircraft will be based at Essendon and will have the ability to be deployed across the state. Night crews are highly experienced and will complete reconnaissance flights during the afternoon before conducting water bombing flights during the night. 

The current fleet has responded to 200 fires since December. Victoria also has a surge capacity of up to 100 aircraft, including thousands of dedicated emergency services workers across all agencies.  

The NFAP program is supported by Victoria’s emergency services and builds on a strong partnership with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, and Victorian, interstate and overseas agencies. 

“While our air and ground crews continue to do everything they can to protect our state, it’s important for Victorians to be prepared for fires, have a plan, know when to leave your property and never rely on one source of information,” said Deputy Emergency Management Commissioner Chris Stephenson.

For more information about how to prepare for fires and other emergencies, download the VicEmergency (External link) app or visit emergency.vic.gov.au (External link)