Oolong Sanctuary  banner created by J. K. Phillips
Home Page ButtonBUSHFIRE CONTROL - Review

Information on bushfire control for all our supporters, who care for the country, and all other Landcare groups and individuals willing to make a submission.

Bushfire information to validate our investigation on bushfire control problems and their solutions.

No aircraft or company in Australia is currently approved by CASA to conduct Night Vision Goggle (NVG) fire bombing at night when bushfires go from uncontrollable to unpredictable! We must demand upgrading of bushfire control with (NVG) operations, Infrared (IFR) equipped Aircrane helicopters and IFR-trained crews and pilots. The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) & the Country Fire Authority (CFA) have NVG capability for aerial reconnaissance and aerial ignition only.

Aero Dynamix, Texas installed a Night Vision Lighting System in an Erickson Aircrane S64F helicopter on 28 July 2010. The night vision system expands the S64's capabilities, enabling the aircraft to operate during night time hours as it is done in California. CASA should be requested to approve Aicranes adequately equipped with night vision, and IFR crew and pilots trained to operate day and night. What are we waiting for? If necessary the federal, state and territory governments have to decide if building submarines has to have priority over the need to protect our country from going up in flames.

For several years, we have researched all available information and observed the bushfire control operations as reported. Eventually, we expressed our concern with the government. We have a reply dated 18 November 2013 from the Hon Michael Keenan MP, Minister for Justice, which includes the following statement about the lack of Aircrane fire-fighting helicopters in Australia:

"Given the very high cost of maintaining specialist aircraft, the duration of the Australian fire season and the fact that the season generally occurs during the off-season for the United States, Canada and Europe, it is logical and prudent to lease the capability. It also offers far greater flexibility to adjust resourcing levels to forecast risk and to introduce technological advancements."

It is inexcusable how our proposal for a fleet of Aircranes to contain bushfires before they become uncontrollable is dismissed by the Minister by: "the very high cost of maintaining Aircranes." Moreover, has the Minister been informed that night vision equipment on Erickson Aircranes has been available since 2010?

Early in January 2015, the Minister is reported as saying: "The Federal Government needed to have a conversation with state governments to review how money was spent before disasters happen, rather than in recovery. We need to look at how we are looking at the money spent on disasters in the most effective way. At the moment we spend most of the money in relation to disasters in Australia in response and recovery."
Mr Keenan said the Productivity Commission should look into the proportion of money being spent by the states before and after bushfires.
"We have a small amount of money being spent on mitigating the threat of a disaster and the vast majority of the money spent on dealing with the after effects," he said. "Clearly we need to have a conversation with the states [about] whether we can spend that money more effectively to mitigate the effects of a disaster before they occur."
is the Minister having a change of heart? We believe that not only should the whole operation be reviewed and better equipment provided, but that with the RAAF taking over air control, bushfires could be controlled before disasters occur: both more effectively and more economically.

On 14January 2015 we received a reply by the Hon Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for Sport and Recreation, Minister Assisting the Premier on Western Sydney: "Firstly I would like to acknowledge Dr D`Addario's committment to land management and the Box Gum Grassy Woodland Project, his efforts are admirable"... "Dr D`Addario may be assured that his correspondence has been duly forwarded to NAFC for consideration" On 23 February the Hon Niall Blair MLC, Parliamentary Secretary for Police and Emergency Services acknowledges receipt of that corresponcence to the Hon Stuart Ayres stating: The matter raised have been noted and are presently receiving attention.......(To date I have had no reply from NAFC).

On 9 March 2015 the Hon Tony Piccolo, MP, Minister for Emergency Services, Government of South Australia to my letter to the Premier Hon Jay Weatherill MP informed me that: "the Productivity Commission, Inquiry into Natural Disaster Funding was welcomed by State/Territory Governments, particularly the proposal that more funding should be allocated to disaster mitigation. The final report was sent to the Commonwealth Government on 17 December 2014 and will be tabled in Parliament early this year".
This is a first effect of our investigation but more has to be done about air firefighting suppression at the onset of bushfires.

We sustain many fires accepted as "uncontrollable" that ARE controllable, regardless of the topographic conditions - if managed promptly and adequately from their onset, using Aircranes equipped with night vision and IFR crews and pilots trained by the RAAF.

With the court allowing compensation of $500,000 for a past large bushfire, and with more large, frequent bushfires coming as the average temperature rises, losses will be far greater. The latest Victoria bushfire, and now the current WA bushfire, which has gone from uncontrollable to unpredictable with 80,000 ha of bush burned so far, are already a painful demonstration that the system used is neither sustainable nor adequate. The number of lightning strikes has increased dramatically to make ground control less effective.
This weakens the control of fires elsewhere and it is too late to call for additional firefighters from other states and the military intervention when the fire has gone from being uncontrollable to unpredictable. The support and intervention of the military is needed to be effective; the army and the RAAF have to take over.

 

Bush fireAustralia is in a state of war with bushfires. More resources are needed to protect the many houses being built at the fringes of towns in bushy areas, and all the small villages in the bush. It is absurd to promote a program of 20-million+ trees when a huge number of bushfires are destroying the country we love, with loss of houses, lives and great damage to flora and fauna. Of course, some fires would be difficult to control in some circumstances, and a challenge to the operations, but we have plenty of latitude with our new approach for not giving up and just being happy to have saved our own lives. Intervention by the defence forces to take over the role of air firefigthing is an urgent necessity.
Predictions of future fires are terrifying, and we must let the constituencies know what is coming with increasing lightning strikes and global warming. Bushfire control has to have all necessary resources to minimise the tremendous potential losses. Support for our concern to improve the whole operation must grow, and the whole Australian population should be informed.

We have sent letters to the editor to the following papers on 28 December 2014 summarising our concerns :

Our submission:

The aim is to obtain signatures from any groups and individuals in each state for a petition to their State and Federal member or directly to the Prime Minister, in their own words and based on the following:

  1. a. Annual cost analysis and release of information about bushfire damage (to report) b.what equipment is used to fight fires, and, where and when Aircranes are used (if any and in what number) c. Time elapsed from the discovery of a fire to the time it becomes “uncontrollable” d. The reason for grounding any other form of support, including water bombing with smaller helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts.
    The main question is: how many Aircranes were used, and how many would have been necessary to extinguish the fire from the time of its discovery to its extinguishing before it become "uncontrollable".
  2. The promotion of a feasibility study into building suitable Aircranes in Australia, in an adequate number and set up in a network at short flight times from each other throughout the country.
  3. The management of a Drone aerial support centre to detect small fires and lightning strikes, and Aircrane operation by the RAAF to be included in the defence budget.
  4. All helicopters are grounded at night, when the time between the beginning of any fire and extinguishing it before it becomes uncontrollable is crucial. Why CASA is not approving night control of bushfires? The USA HH-60G PAVE Hawks helicopters can operate day or night. They have night vision goggles, lighting, and a forward-looking infrared system that greatly enhances night-time low-level operation. The Erickson S64E helicopters operating in Australia should likewise be equipped and allowed to function without night interruptions*.
  5. A forensic investigation to ascertain why and when fires become uncontrollable and what should be done to prevent them becoming uncontrollable and thereby avoid great losses.
  6. The entire program could be supported by an annual national lottery, as was done for the construction of the Sydney Opera House. 

 

*Aero Dynamix STC for Erickson Air-Crane NVG, 17 Mar,2011, Source: Aero Dynamix
Aero Dynamix, Inc., Euless, Texas installed a Night Vision Lighting System in an Erickson Aircrane S64F helicopter on 28 July 2010.
"The night vision system from Aero Dynamix expands the S-6's capabilities, enabling the aircraft to operate during night time hours, as well as enhancing the S-64's flight deck,"¯ said Udo Rieder, Erickson Aircrane President and CEO.

How to suppress bushfires on their onset?

The earth is getting hotter. The 2000s was the warmest decade in a thousand years. Global temperature, in general, keeps increasing, creating conditions that intensify wildfire danger, by warming and drying out vegetation and by stirring the winds that spread fires. Fast fires are hard to contain and likely to expand into residential areas. Already about 1 billion people live in areas prone to natural disasters.

Fire Departments around the world call on "water bombers" to fight large fires. Carrying huge amounts of water and retardants, they actually are more cost-efficient than most other firefighting methods.

Erickson HelitankerOne of these water bombers is the Erickson Helitanker. It can deliver 2,650 gallon (10,000 litres) of water in one drop, and, using a ram scoop hydrofoil, refill from any water source 18 inches (45 cm) deep in about 45 seconds. The Helitanker can precision deliver 30,000 gallons (110,000 litres) per hour.


turbofan jet IlyushinThe Helitanker’s water cannon attached to the tank forces a stream of water or foam mix at 300 gallons (1,140 liters) per minute over a range of 200 ft (~60 meters).


 One of the largest and fastest of the water bombers is the turbofan jet Ilyushin-76TD (Il-76). It can reach a fire anywhere in the world within 12 hours. Carrying 11,000 gallons (42,000 litres) of water and fire retardants – 4 times as much as a C-130 – it can, in one run, dump enough water to cover 6 double-wide football fields, or an area 0.7 miles (1,1 km) in length. Outfitted with a twin-tank system capable of carrying 135,000 pounds of liquid, it can be filled and be ready for take-off in 15 minutes.

turbofan jet Ilyushin diagram

Click to view: video demo

National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC)- Research and Development Fund:
The NAFC Board places considerable emphasis on evidence-based decision-making and strong research and development (R&D) to improve the use of aviation in fire and emergency management.
During 2013-14, the Board established a dedicated sub-committee, chaired by Mr Greg Nettleton, to monitor, oversee and promote R&D activities.They also created a Fire and Emergency Aviation R&D Fund. The primary aims of establishing the fund are to promote targeted, user-driven research in fire and emergency aviation, and to facilitate initiation and commissioning of R&D projects. Operation of the R&D Fund will also assist in ensuring an ongoing, specialised research capacity is accessible to NAFC and its Members. The NAFC R&D Committee will consider applications via members, to fund targeted research and developments.

Question: In light of the above, shouldn't the NAFC be questioned on the management of its funds if we don't have Aicranes operating day and night during the crucial stage of bushfire development?

Cr Mark Greenhillis, Mayor of the Blue Mountains was reported to say on Nov 4, 2013 in the Sydney Morning Herald: " ...they were a God send. It is time to buy Aircrane helicopters since they have been very effective¯. In the same article Mr Shane Fitzsimmons, Rural Fire Service (RFS) Commissioner disagrees and dismisses the request with the argument that they are too expensive to maintain, needing pilots, etc. 

If the RAAF were to take the Aircranes over, all costs would be absorbed in the defence budget. Our suggestion offers a good solution and would dissipate all the Commissioner's concerns. 

The Friends of Oolong Landcare Committee, which is based at Dalton Park will persist in a strong demand towards all governments - federal, state and territory - to budget for the development of this new industry. We are seeking the support of the Wilderness Society.

It is official that the year 2014 has been the hottest year since records began! Below we have attached a table of all major bushfires in Australia to 2014. As reported by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) on the latest catastrophic bushfires in WA in January 2015: So far the Northcliff fire has burnt 91,000ha. The Lower Hotham has burnt through approximately 52,000ha. Only one Erickson Aircrane is in WA.

Bushfires are escalating in number, owing to the increasing warming of the climate, the extension of the fire season and the increasing number of lightning strikes associated with fires throughout Australia.

Bushfires need continuous day and night air control to maximise their suppression in the initial, crucial stage of firefighting.  NAFC and other agencies’ efforts in air and ground control are not adequate for the initial stage. And, after the fires have become uncontrollable or unpredictable, firefighting efforts are directed to mitigating the effects of fires. This inevitably increases the danger to inhabitants, properties, and causes extensive destruction of fauna and flora. Costs are escalating, courts now allowing also compensation for damages. (Refer to “Estimating the costs of fire in Australia: now and in 2020).

The objection of the Minister for Justice, the Hon Michael Keenan MP, and the NAFC Board to operating aircranes on the basis of them being ‘too expensive’ is invalid in all respects.  

NAFC planning is five years behind; night and infrared (IFR) have been available for aircranes since 2010 but are not used in Australia. Their program and action must be completely reviewed. Civil forces should be auxiliary and complementary to the critical initial action that is required, promptly and adequately, following the onset of any bushfires.

The Erickson Company has only been able to allocate two Erickson S-64E Aircranes to Australia instead of the usual six for the current bushfire season owing to other commitments. We need many more.

CASA must be asked to approve night operation of Erickson aircranes-properly equipped and with trained staff. (Could civil staff be trained by the RAAF or the military?)

The two available aircranes should be equipped with suitable night vision equipment, and have IFR trained crews and pilots ready to operate ASAP to test the new approach.

A study is needed on the feasibility of constructing Erickson aircranes in Australia under licence by a consortium of states and territories, and to consider also any other type of similar aircrane suitable for this purpose if the Erickson Company is not willing to cooperate.

Forensic investigations should be conducted on recent bushfires that have gone from uncontrollable to unpredictable and potentially catastrophic, to ascertain the validity of the observations recommending continuous bushfire suppression from the very start of a fire.

The Department of Defence should accept the situation of bushfires as that of a war, with adequate budgetary measures, and also consider the formation of a national task force dedicated to bushfire control with adequately trained staff, management and maintenance of a fleet of aircranes located in strategic positions.

The article: “The 2014 Defence budget – as good as it gets!” indicates that the costs associated with the whole bushfire operation can be accommodated if it is accepted that we are in a status of war.

The RAAF should undergo a feasibility study on the safety and successful use of drone surveillance of bushfire-prone areas to trigger the prompt intervention of aircranes.

There is no question that any progress in the development of this new approach of bushfire control will be refined and improved over time. However, the immediate trial result - even if limited by the number of aircrane available and their distance from the source - will be a reduction, if not a complete suppression, of some or all bushfires from their onset.

It is becoming a matter of extreme urgency, which perhaps requires a reassessment of the defence strategy of the country. Consider that the present program will slowly but surely result in perennial yearly tremendous losses and damages. The situation is a status of war, requiring immediate remedial action.

 

 

Gianni D`Addario
President
Friends of Oolong
mobile 0423200202
gianni@skymesh.com.au

Home | Friends | News | Projects | History | Conservation Program | Strategic Direction | Habitat/Remnants | Farmers | Bushfire Control | BushfireInfo | School Program | Testimonials | Scientific Advisory Board | Supporters | Flora | Fauna | Archaeological | Statistical Model | Membership | Location Details | Contact