Government to contract new helicopter ahead of the 2019 bushfire season 

Lachlan Roberts 31 May 2019

The Firebird 100 helicopter was leased to the ACT during the last bushfire season. Photo: Supplied by ACT Government.

In the wake of Canberra’s longest bushfire season since the devastating 2003 season, the ACT Government will allocate money for a third helicopter to enhance the early detection and suppression of bushfires in remote locations across the ACT and surrounding region.

During the Pierce’s Creek bushfire which was likened to the 2003 bushfires, 21 fire appliances, five waterbombing helicopters as well as the two large air tankers from NSW were on site to fight the blaze.

Firebird 100, a helicopter armed with cameras that can track bushfires from several kilometres away and can stream vision to mobile phones, was also leased to the ACT in December.

To help the Emergency Services Agency in case of another treacherous bushfire season this summer, ACT Emergency Services Minister Mick Gentleman said the ACT Government would allocate $2.2 million in the 2019-20 ACT Budget to contract a third helicopter.

Mr Gentleman said the budget will also invest $1.9 million to refurbish the ACT State Emergency Service Majura base to cater for a growing volunteer membership base.

A new administration building and expansion of vehicle, equipment and training spaces will be constructed at the Majura Unit facility to provide crucial support to Canberra’s inner north during storm and flood events.

ACT Rural Fire Service volunteers and staff will also benefit from upgraded workspaces in the refurbished Hume Helibase and modernised change areas for the Hall brigade through a $178,000 investment in the next financial year.

Emergency Services Agency and ACT Policing joined Mr Gentleman at the funding announcement. Photo: George Tsotsos.

“The ACT Government is strengthening bushfire preparedness and upgrading workspaces through the 2019-20 ACT Budget to continue keeping Canberrans safe as our community grows,” Mr Gentleman said.

“Identifying and tackling bushfires before they threaten lives or homes in Canberra’s urban areas is a critical part of our work to keep this community safe.

“These investments will strengthen community protection against bushfires, storms and floods and help our emergency services protect life, property and the environment – now and in the years to come.”

Emergency Services Agency acting commissioner Georgina Whelan said this investment means the ESA can keep pace with the needs of the ACT community in terms of personnel, platforms, equipment and training.

“In the last bushfire season, we had great success in terms of detection, situational awareness and capability to attack the fire,” she said. “This third helicopter will give us additional support that we need and ensure that we are always ready to respond.

“The third helicopter is just another tool that will help equip us to protect life, property and the environment which we live in.”

Ms Whelan said the ACT can never be too prepared for bushfires or natural disasters and the funding proved the Government’s commitment to keeping Canberra safe all year round.

“The Emergency Services Agency is the sum of its parts and the investment that the ACT Government is making into all its services will see a benefit in the years to come,” she said.

“We can never be too prepared for bushfires or natural disasters and it is crucial for our Government to continue strengthening our emergency services to ensure the safety of Canberrans all year round.

“The upgrades to facilities remind our staff that they deserve the respect, support and the facilities the Emergency Service Agency can provide for them when they are keeping Canberra safe.”

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