After last week’s devastation in the South-West, a Port Kennedy-based helitac pilot has lifted the lid on the battle against raging bushfires.
While communities down south deal with the after-effects of raging infernos, seasoned pilot Brenton Davis revealed some insights into his role.
He has flown helicopters for 23 years and firefighting aircraft for nine years.
Mr Davis is part of the elite first line of protection for Perth, battling blazes within a 120km radius of the city.
He flies for HNZ, which is contracted by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services to tackle bushfires from November to April.
“We risk our lives doing what we do to save people’s houses and we’re quite happy to do that,” Mr Davis said.
“But when you fly around, you can see how people have bushes growing up to their verandas on all four sides. They’re really asking for trouble.
“We’re going through such a dry spell, people could prepare their homes and properties a lot better than they do.
“If people prepare their properties properly, the helitacs should just be the last line of defence “I think a lot of people are very complacent about the dangers, especially here in Perth.”
He also gave an insight into the mind of a pilot, before going airborne.
“There’s always a heightened sense of adrenaline when the call comes in,” Mr Davis said.
“We try to get out there and hit every single piece of fire on the head with our water load.
“A couple of years ago, we had an extensive fire down near my place.
Your heart and soul is definitely in the job when you know you’re looking after people you know. When there is a fire, everybody steps up to the mark, we’re proud of the good job we do.”
Mr Davis was involved in the effort to tame the bushfire that closed the Kwinana Freeway last week, along with Baldivis resident Brendon Cleaver.
Mr Cleaver pilots an air attack helicopter which sits above bushfires, with a DFES or DEC employee onboard to direct strategies to extinguish blazes.
“We get a lot of work down Rockingham way. That’s predominantly because we’re blessed with so much national park and natural bushland,” he said. “There’s always still a lot of fires that we attend that are lit with cigarette butts unintentionally, but that’s just the nature of the beast.”
Despite the inherent dangers involved with the job, Mr Davis said he was proud to make a difference “in the real world”.
“It’s dangerous work, but it’s calculated flying,” he said.“We’re in a low-level environment which has hazards like objects burning, power lines, fences and unseen trees. Quite often at the setting of the sun, there’s limited visibility and smoke all over the windscreen.”