Aerial defence

January 05th, 2017
Aerial defence
The SA Country Fire Service (CFS) is now operating from a new airbase at Brukunga with 18 aircraft ready to water-bomb bushfires and provide surveillance support this fire danger season.

The Claremont Aerial Firefighting Base, which replaced the Woodside base in the Adelaide Hills, has more space to park aircraft, better filling capacity and a longer runway which will enable aircraft to take off and land more easily in bad weather.

CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton said aerial firefighting is a key resource for the CFS and was used frequently last fire season.

"However it's important to note that aircraft support firefighters on the ground who are essential in the extinguishing of fire," he said.

"Volunteers are a major part of the aviation fleet with Air Operations Brigades throughout the state assisting to load aerial bombers with firefighting suppressant."

The new base is one of 41 used by the CFS throughout South Australia.

Other airbases in the Mount Lofty Ranges include Cherry Gardens and Mount Crawford.

Aircraft responded to 278 fires across the state and conducted 787 aerial bombing missions to support the efforts of volunteers on the ground last fire danger season.

State Minister for Emergency Services Peter Malinauskas said the fleet of 11 aerial bombers and 7 surveillance aircraft could be deployed quickly from the new base.

"When a fire breaks out on days of high fire danger the CFS dispatches aerial firefighting aircraft, meaning often the bombers get to the site of the fire before tankers do," he said.

"Support aircraft are used to both inform the bombers and also the public as to where the fire is and where it is headed.

"The new airbase gives the CFS the ability to respond quickly and safely to the threat of fire."

He said aerial firefighting resources were funded through the state's Emergency Services Levy.

When a fire starts, CFS air observers like Michael Mathew (pictured) help to collect intelligence information on its location and direction of spread to inform the firefighters' strategies.

Air observers also help to monitor assets under threat and fire suppression progress from the aircraft.

The Hills' airbase has been located at Woodside for the last 30 years.

Its move to Brukunga was instigated by Aerotech First Response, the main company contracted by the SA CFS to provide aircraft services.

The CFS said no jobs were compromised in the move, with all contracted employees and staff moving to the new location.

The base will only be operational during the fire danger season and the CFS said landing and take-off flight paths are not located directly over any built up residential areas.

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