Battle against fire heats up

Busselton will once again be home to a critical water bombing helicopter for the upcoming bushfire season.

Picture by FESA: An Erikson Skycrane water bomber, known as Elvis, will be available during the coming WA fire season.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority’s Type 1 helicopter will stay in the region for the second year, Shire of Busselton ranger and emergency services manager Tim Wall confirmed last week.

Mr Wall said the contract has been renewed for the helicopter to be at Busselton Regional Airport from January 1.

It comes as the State Governmentannounced a $6.25 million investment in additional fire fighting equipment including an Erikson Skycrane water bomber, known as Elvis, which was capableof dropping 9500 litres of water in a single load, more than double the amount of the Type 1 helicopter.

Emergency Services Minister Rob Johnson told the Times Elvis was expected to be available from December and funding would also support immediate refurbishment of four tankers and the purchase of another four and a heavy pumper as part of FESA’s standby fleet in time for the 2012-13 season.

“The plan is for these appliances to be utilised throughout the State during the alternate fire seasons when needed — including the South West during the summer period — and then relocated to the North West during its fire season,” he said.

FESA fire management officer Andy Thompson welcomed the boost to fire suppression efforts for any major incidents in the region.

“Added resources can only help our volunteer firefighters with the job that they do,” he said.

Meanwhile, the restricted burning season has started with permits required until December 14 followed by a total fire ban until the end of February next year.

Mr Thompson said FESA was still conducting the last of the winter burns in conjunction with the DEC and, with the “moist” conditions from higher rainfall compared with last year, there was no reason to close the season off early.