Firefighting fleet increased

September 09, 2017

Fighting fire: A helicopter dumps water on hay bales at Ardmona.

It is unclear whether Shepparton and surrounding areas will benefit from an increase in Victoria’s firefighting aircraft fleet this fire danger season.

On Wednesday Victorian Emergency Services Minister James Merlino announced $13.42million to deliver the state’s largest ever firefighting fleet this summer.

The state’s 49-aircraft fleet will see the addition of two large air tankers, two orange air-cranes and a water bombing helicopter.

District 22 operations officer Pete Dedman was unaware whether the district would see an increase in its air services.

‘‘For the district we should still have the Helitac at Shepparton — that’s the water bombing helicopter — and we should have the Mangalore one and Benalla,’’ he said.

‘‘They’re the three that primarily cover District 22 and sometimes we’ll get one out of Bendigo.

‘‘To the best of my knowledge we will still have those.’’

Most of the water-bombing aircraft will operate through pre-determined dispatch, which means they will respond to fires at the same time as firefighters on the ground.

Mr Merlino said the fleet will be strategically positioned across the state and will come online progressively, as the fire season risk increases.

‘‘While the 49 aircraft will be allocated to particular regions, they will each be deployed as needed across the state to ensure our hard-working firefighters on the ground receive the support they need from the air,’’ Mr Merlino said.

‘‘In addition to the 49-strong aircraft fleet, Victoria has 100 extra aircraft that can be called upon if required.’’

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