The SA Country Fire Service (CFS) will have a larger aerial firefighting fleet for the upcoming fire danger season.
The State Government has provided additional funding totalling more than $9 million over the next four years to boost the CFS fleet from 17 to 26 aircraft.
Minister for Police, Emergency Services and Correctional Services, Corey Wingard said the Mid North will also gain additional support for bushfires this year with a new CFS aerial firefighting base at Hoyleton, in the Clare Valley.
“The new Mid North Primary Response Zone (PRZ) will see two firebombers, a tactical coordination helicopter and an intelligence helicopter dispatched when a fire is reported,” he said.
“This will be the fourth PRZ adding to those already established in the Mount Lofty Ranges, the Lower Eyre Peninsula and Lower South East.
“The increase in the number of firefighting aircraft will provide greater support to ground-based CFS firefighters across the state.”
Aerial support also provides timely information to the community, sometimes even before CFS ground crews have reached the fire.
CFS Chief Officer Greg Nettleton said a new five-year contract will assist two South Australian businesses - Aerotech and Helifarm - while three national contractors - United Aero, Kestral and Air Affairs - will also benefit from the increased fleet.
“By responding aircraft immediately, the CFS not only can begin to suppress the fire from the air but also provide timely information to the community about the scale and movement of the fire,” he said.
“Last year we trialled aircraft in the Mid North PRZ while fire danger was heightened and farmers were harvesting their crop and this was a success, with several fires in the area extinguished quickly.”
The Lower South East and Lower Eyre Peninsula PRZ will also gain extra resources this year with both receiving tactical and intelligence helicopters.
“CFS will also have access to a high-speed intelligence strategic resource aircraft to provide statewide fire mapping intelligence to the community and aid operations 24 hours a day,” Mr Nettleton said.
“The infrared camera on the aircraft will provide near real time, downloadable mapping to enhance our ability to track fires, especially in terrain like the Mount Lofty Ranges.”
Contracts for CFS aircraft will begin in November with the entire firefighting fleet including the well-known heli-tanker (aircrane) to be available from late December.