High-flying firies play a key role in battling bushfires

VOLUNTEER fire-fighter Graham Winters was fighting fires on the ground at Halfway Creek on Saturday when the call for air support came.

The next day the Grafton-based aviation officer was at the Grafton Airbase overseeing the set up of an RFS aviation fleet, in response to continued fire activity across the landscape.

According to the NSW RFS Twitter page, 27 fires were burning across the Clarence Valley yesterday afternoon.

Eleven aircraft have now joined the fight: five water bomber planes, three bomber helicopters, two aerotactic helicopters and mapping aircraft.

Each helicopter and plane can hold up to 3000 litres at any given time.

On Sunday, 40,000 litres of fire retardant were dropped on blazes in bushland across the Valley.

Yesterday, three helicopters were still working to contain the Kremnos bush fire which claimed three houses on Sunday.

Aviation Support Officer with Rural Fire Service Graham Winters with the aircraft on standby at the Grafton Airport Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner
Aviation Support Officer with Rural Fire Service Graham Winters with the aircraft on standby at the Grafton Airport Photo Adam Hourigan / The Daily Examiner Adam Hourigan

"It's been a very early start to the season," Mr Winters said. "We didn't want it to start this early."

The long-serving RFS volunteer has been helping fight fires in the Clarence Valley since 1997, spending 14 of those years in aviation.

Lanitza service station owner Christine Robinson said if it wasn't for the volunteers who have worked tirelessly since Friday, her house on Curlew Dr would not likely be standing.

All residents were on alert to evacuate the street on Sunday, and Mrs Robinson waited anxiously at the service station for news.

RFS fire-fighters were able to stop the fire jumping the river, and saved properties house-by-house.

"They've just done so much it's unbelievable - they really went above and beyond and they're still here," she said.

"I just want to say thank you from the whole town. Everybody's coming in and asking how we can thank them."



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