By Grace Burmas
Posted Sun 4 Dec 2022 at 1:00am
Western Australia’s firefighting capability has been strengthened by the addition of two large air tankers (LAT) ahead of a “challenging” bushfire season.
It is the first time WA will have locally-based LATs, with the two tankers to stationed at the Busselton-Margaret River airport in the south-west.
The tankers will join more than 30 aircraft in the state’s aerial fleet, as emergency services prepare for a dry and hot summer, making for a busy bushfire season.
Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said WA was in for a “very challenging bushfire season”, according to the latest weather information.
“WA is the largest emergency management jurisdiction in the southern hemisphere, and having two LATs exclusively for our state over the high-risk bushfire season will provide a major boost to our firefighting capability,” Mr Dawson said.
“The LATs are well-suited to the WA environment due to their greater endurance and fast-cruising speeds.”
A C130 Hercules LAT, which will remain in WA for the high-threat fire season, was unveiled on Sunday and the Commonwealth-funded Boeing 737 Fireliner will arrive later this month.
Both tankers have the capacity to carry more than 15,000 litres of fire suppressant and can travel at speeds of more than 700 kilometres per hour when fully loaded.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s WA Manager James Ashley said the long-range outlook showed a very similar scenario to the summer of 2021-2022, which was Perth’s hottest-ever and delivered a record number of days in excess of 40 degrees Celsius.
“We tend to have either really hot days, or periods of hot temperatures leading to those heatwave conditions like we had last summer,” he said.
“And as far as the signal for this summer, it really is a high chance of having those heatwave conditions or those extremely hot days.”
Department of Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Darren Klemm said the new tankers should provide West Australians with some peace of mind.
“Large Air Tankers are incredibly effective at building containment lines to stop the spread of bushfires and will help our firefighters on the ground to protect lives and properties,” he said.
“Each day during the summer bushfire season, there will be more than 30 aircraft on stand-by in Western Australia, ready to be called upon in an emergency,” he said.
Posted 4 Dec 2022