Look skyward for ‘Future of firefighting in Australia’

THE future of firefighting will be in up the skies according to NSW Emergency Services Minister David Elliott.

Mr Elliot was visiting Coffs Harbour to hand over the keys to several brand new fire trucks for local brigades, including Red Hill and Nana Glen, and briefly discussed the implications of the NSW Bushfire Inquiry report.

Mr Elliot said there was in no way a "silver bullet" among the recommendations but made special mention of the report's reference to increasing the state's aerial firefighting capacity.

"The way the report's recommendations directed us towards better management of aviation assets, in my mind, justifies the investment we have made in aviation assets," Mr Elliot said.

"It also highlights to the service itself that this is the future of firefighting in Australia - we haven't had those capabilities before.

"Of course the Mid-North Coast has seen the benefit of that in the high-profile role the Marie Bashir took during the bushfires."

The Marie Bashir drops fire retardant on the Shark Creek fire at Angourie last year.
The Marie Bashir drops fire retardant on the Shark Creek fire at Angourie last year.

The newest aircraft in the NSW Rural Fire Service's fleet, the Marie Bashir, spent a number of weeks in the region and exposed the community to its many capabilities - including casing foregrounds in brightly coloured fire retardant.

The Bushfire Inquiry recommended RFS expand aviation simulator capacity at its Training Academy, trial retrofitting RAAF C130 aircraft to augment aerial firefighting capacity and review current assets and determine whether they are "fit for purpose".

It also noted a current lack of mid-sized firefighting aircraft.

While the NSW Government has committed to implementing every one of the report's 76 recommendations, their diverse nature ensures the challenge will lie in achieving outcomes across multiple government departments and agencies.

When asked where he would start, Mr Elliot said "we start with all of them" before acknowledging he had been tasked by the Premier to bring a timetable back to cabinet within "four to six weeks".

"I have not picked out anything specifically but there are some recommendations I started implementing as early as may this year," he said.

"Some are just legislative changes and some are processes we can implement internally pretty much immediately while some of them will require inter-jurisdictional collaborations.

"And some of them will require a budget submission and I am looking forward to that challenge."

 

The new Red Hill RFS Cat 1 tanker can be controlled by a monitor in the cab, spray water using just a monitor and water. Photo: Tim Jarrett
The new Red Hill RFS Cat 1 tanker can be controlled by a monitor in the cab, spray water using just a monitor and water. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Coffs Harbour MP Gurmesh Singh said the report was "essential reading" for every citizen of NSW and the new firefighting vehicles were an example of the government's commitment to providing the RFS with "the best possible resources".

The two new trucks, which are worth a combined value of $1.1 million, will provide an even greater level of fire protection to the community and come with all the bells and whistles.

Taking around 6 months to build, the new Cat 1 tankers include a remote controlled hose attached to the front of the truck, increased safety features, variable water pressure controls and better storage capacity.



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