“Severe danger” in ACT as calls for expanded ADF firefighting efforts grow

Genevieve Jacobs 28 December 2019 95

There are growing calls for greater ADF involvement in the firefighting effort. Photo: Lake George RFS.

As the fire crisis continues and we head towards another heatwave across the region, calls for greater ADF involvement and access to international resources to put Australia on a bushfire “war footing” are growing.

Lightning strikes have been recorded in the Tinderries and the fire danger rating in the ACT has been increased to severe as stronger than expected winds pick up ahead of anticipated heatwave conditions early next week.

There are currently no fires burning in the ACT, but the ESA says that smoke from the NSW and Victorian fires is expected to thicken today as the wind changes this afternoon.

A total fire ban remains in place in the ACT and an Incident Management Team has been activated to monitor conditions throughout the day.

Near Moruya, a man will face court after lighting a fire without a permit in the Deua River Valley which quickly spread into the neighbouring state forest.

In a joint press release yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management David Littleproud and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the ADF will increase its support to fire authorities, deploying additional specialist personnel to advise Incident Controllers at Fire Control Centres in NSW.

Defence Liaison Officers have been positioned at all 14 Incident Control Centres in the state with a list of equipment and support that can be provided, including bulldozers, bulk water carriers and troops.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the ADF is currently providing a range of support services to firefighters.

“All three services of the ADF continue to provide significant behind the scenes support to firefighting efforts across the nation, including aerial fire reconnaissance; helicopter search and rescue; logistical support such as ground transport; providing meals for exhausted firefighters; as well as basing, re-fuelling, water re-supply, loading fire retardant and air traffic management for firefighting aircraft,” Ms Reynolds said.

“This behind the scenes support from the ADF frees up more of our firefighters to perform their specialised roles fighting the fires.”

However, 2010 NSW Australian of the Year and Planet Ark co-founder Jon Dee says the time has come for the Australian Government to call on all possible resources including international specialist equipment, given the unprecedented scale of the fire crisis.

“I’d like to propose we go on a war footing against bushfires and climate change. We’ve got an amazing military, very well trained and very well resourced,” the environmentalist and social activist told ABC News.

“When do we get army fire engines? At what point do we get soldiers picking up hoses, similar to what’s happened in the UK when there have been national crises [there]?

“At some point, we need to provide backup for these volunteer firefighters,” Mr Dee said. “They already have trained firefighters in the army and they are very good at what they do, so why can’t we involve them?”

Mr Dee also questioned why no request has been made to the US Forestry Services for their specialist firefighting aircraft which can be deployed at 24-hour’s notice.

He also suggested that existing RAAF c130 Hercules transport planes based in Richmond could be converted to firefighting craft using US technology at a cost of around $4-6 million each.

“That seems incredibly cheap to turn them into a firefighting craft,” he said.

“There has not been enough action to support volunteer firefighters on the ground. It’s time to deal with this in a different way.”

But speaking at Queanbeyan this morning, Emergency Services Minister David Littleproud said the primary focus should be on locally-based firefighters who know the terrain and how local conditions operate. Defence Force assistance is best deployed on a complementary basis, he said.

“The ADF will be there, that’s a commitment from the Australian Government”, he said. “The NSW Government has operational management of these fires. You don’t want politicians with kneejerk reactions.”

Mr Littleproud said the next few days would be very challenging.

“If you are in the fire line you have to be prepared. You owe it to these men and women to be prepared and act on that plan immediately. I call on the public to back our firefighters. If they ask you to do something, just do it. They are putting their lives on the line for you.”

The Bureau of Meteorology is expecting strong winds and dry lightning across much of south-eastern Australia as temperatures steadily increase over the next few days.

The current peak of heat is hovering over South Australia causing severe to extreme conditions and that will extend further south and intensify throughout the weekend and into Monday.

The BOM expects conditions on Tuesday to be particularly dangerous as dry lightning and gusty winds associated with thunderstorms increase.

To stay up to date on bush fires in your area call the NSW RFS Bush Fire Information Line on 1800 679 737 or check the NSW RFS website. For road reports and updates visit Live Traffic NSW.

Use the Register.Find.Unite service to register your location, and find and reunite with family, friends and loved ones after an emergency.

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95 Responses to “Severe danger” in ACT as calls for expanded ADF firefighting efforts grow
Lou Catlin Lou Catlin 11:39 am 30 Dec 19

Call in everyone! And do rain dances...nekkid if it helps!

Jenny McInnes Jenny McInnes 10:30 pm 29 Dec 19

Lee Anne Lynch hope you are all safe out there xx

    Lee Anne Lynch Lee Anne Lynch 8:54 am 30 Dec 19

    all ok here Jen we actually had some heavy rain late yesterday. X

Capital Retro Capital Retro 2:04 pm 29 Dec 19

“The only way to stop these fires is rain, and that is beyond any human control.”

Same applies to the notion that humans are causing climate “change”.

    paulmuster paulmuster 9:59 am 30 Dec 19

    Well done – have you hit your quota for climate denier talking points yet?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:38 pm 31 Dec 19

    I have plenty of common sense, fact backed talking points as you know. I don’t have a “quota”.

liberalsocialist liberalsocialist 10:59 am 29 Dec 19

The ADF is for the military defence of Australia – not fighting fires. If there is a need to have more paid members of the fire-fighting and other emergency services – then the states can stump up and pay for it. If they need choppers to evacuate people like they did in 2013 – then where are they 5 years later? Oh! We don’t want to spend money on this state-based issue – the ADF will always be there.

The ADF has skills that are applicable to this sort of event – and they’re being used. For some to suggest (such as former RFS chief and failed politician Phil Coperberg) that the ADF needs to have 400 members on permanent standby for emergencies such as this is ridiculous. If you need 400 people on standby – then the states can hire them! If it’s not needed, then so be it – you’re either telling porkies or you’re stating that the states have put insufficient funding or planning into the mix in the years since the last 2013 fire crisis.

And by the way – fighting fires from a Helicopter is not a basic job. If our aircrew in the ADF maximise their training in domestic counter-terrorism and the like with the hours they are allowed to fight – who’s going to pay for the additional hours of training required to properly fight fires? Or are we going to reduce the training in everything else to fit it in? I wish people would not think it’s so simple as dropping a bucket of water…

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:37 am 29 Dec 19

“If we can drop a tank, from.the skys….”

I don’t think that can be done in Australia; those Abrahms tanks are huge.

William Smith William Smith 4:28 am 29 Dec 19

If we can drop a tank, from.the skys in war time why can we not drop multiple water containers, in a row, from a defense force plane???

Jai Darling Jai Darling 9:49 pm 28 Dec 19

Well yeah, we should, we should be doing a lot of things, but that's where priority funding is required.......

Anne Christoff Frampton Anne Christoff Frampton 9:31 pm 28 Dec 19

Yet Canberra and Sydney are still going ahead with their fireworks displays on New Year’s Eve. Disgusting waste of money and fire hazard in itself. Don’t we have enough smoke lingering around.

    Marietta McGregor Marietta McGregor 4:18 pm 29 Dec 19

    Canberra has cancelled its fireworks, Anne Christoff Frampton.

    Anne Christoff Frampton Anne Christoff Frampton 4:19 pm 29 Dec 19

    Marietta McGregor really that’s wonderful.

Ursula Gamal Ursula Gamal 9:28 pm 28 Dec 19

More tax paid resources of the Armed Forces. This is a State of Emergency on home soil!

Larry Appley Larry Appley 8:51 pm 28 Dec 19

I completely agree that more resources are required for this bushfire crisis. A more proactive rather than reactive approach is required. Any and all resources pertinent to fighting these monsters is required. Obviously dumping untrained personnel into the fray is foolhardy so I believe training of the defence force personnel should be high priority. Converting more aircraft to firefighting capacity would also make sense as it's plain to see, we are at war with these fires and currently, we're not winning!

Scott Morrison had the gall to say climate protesters were harming the economy...if he's so concerned about the economy, he need only look at how much we have lost in export assets, local and international tourism and lost productivity from prolonged use of volunteers.

Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:23 pm 28 Dec 19

Why is any post about the fires seen as an opportunity to bash the PM? He has not an emergency response expert, nor directly involved in any way, shape or form. The response to the fires is a state and territory issue.

    Jim McDonald Jim McDonald 8:35 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan Because he doesn't listen. Since when do fires recognise State boundaries? He seems to be an expert on everything else.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:39 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan I guess some people think the PM should show some leadership. Leadership is not about see exercising direct management over tasks but supporting and inspiring the people who do that stuff.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:39 pm 28 Dec 19

    Jim McDonald feeble excuse to have a go at him. He has nothing to contribute to the current situation. The fire response is funded, equipped and organised by the states.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:43 pm 28 Dec 19

    Anura Samara we all know that he is either incapable, or unwilling. I just can’t see how his “leadership” is going to contribute anything to our response.

    Julie Linsley Julie Linsley 8:51 pm 28 Dec 19

    Your right. How petty to pick on the PM. When it was only his third overseas family holiday this year. Worked so hard this year too...least number of parliamentary sitting days on record... to successful pass only one piece of legislation, the repeal of the medivac legislation... how good is cruelty and malice.... Morrison was sacked by the federal minister for tourism in 2006. That should have been the end of his career. Lol, he rose again.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 9:02 pm 28 Dec 19

    Julie Linsley I’m not interested in the politics. As a firefighter, my focus is where it is needed.

    Julie Linsley Julie Linsley 9:33 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan really? Why come to the defence of Scummo if you're not interested in the politics? Why declare the federal government exempt from responsibility? Why post this political comment and then say you're not interested in politics? Perhaps the truth about Scummo is distasteful?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 10:13 pm 28 Dec 19

    Julie Linsley you don’t understand.

    Wayne Lutter Wayne Lutter 11:36 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan it’s just lefties still smarting over the election loss, until the states handover states responsibility (hardly likely) than fires, RFS remain a state responsibility

    Carolyn McGrath Carolyn McGrath 11:42 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan it doesn't matter if it's funded by the states. We are in crisis point at this moment with more help obviously needed. Our rivers snd damns are dangerously low while the Feds and States approve the sale of water to bottling companies and our rivers are bled dry by to many irrigation licences being handed over to multi-nationals and foreign powers.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 11:48 pm 28 Dec 19

    What you are saying is outside of my expertise....I only commented on the general ignorance portraid by the posts in this thread. I am just suggesting leaving the political arguments out of threads about the fires. There is nothing the federal government or the PM can do about the current situation.

    Julie Linsley Julie Linsley 12:07 am 29 Dec 19

    Les Jordan Blind, wilful refusal to acknowledge reality, the feds have buckets of options. Meeting with the group of concerned fire experts when requested eight months ago, would have been prudent at the least. You call your own credibility into account.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 12:30 am 29 Dec 19

    Julie Linsley thanks for the feedback. What have you done to help during this crisis?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 12:32 am 29 Dec 19

    Julie Linsley by the way, I know the reality....I’m directly involved in it on a daily basis.😉

    Carolyn McGrath Carolyn McGrath 1:11 pm 29 Dec 19

    Les Jordan thank you for your service. You need to read up onbwhat is happening in Australia. That is how I find out what disastrous govts we have at this time. Please stop saying that the Feds can't do anything to help. Australia is burning, our lands, homes, the livelihoods of Australians are being being decimated yet you still defend Morrison.

    Carolyn McGrath Carolyn McGrath 1:16 pm 29 Dec 19

    Les Jordan Morrison has had ample time and opportunity to meet with valued fire officials and aboriginals who know how to stop this carnage but refuses to until March 2020. That timeline is crazy. Do you know that this Parliament has sat for the least amount of time in any year, so Australia burns while he twiddles his thumbs. Did you know that he considers it more important to visit India in January instead? Stop saying he can't do anything, we know he hasn't got the knowledge but many others do and he won't listen.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 1:46 pm 29 Dec 19

    Carolyn McGrath you just don’t get it do you?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 1:47 pm 29 Dec 19

    I haven’t defended anybody. I find all our politicians equally distrustful.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 1:50 pm 29 Dec 19

    Carolyn McGrath I don’t disagree with you on the experts and Aboriginal who know how to manage fire. I do, however, disagree with the notion that anybody can stop what is happening. The only way to stop these fires is rain, and that is beyond any human control.

    Carolyn McGrath Carolyn McGrath 2:42 pm 29 Dec 19

    Les Jordan we have stripped our lands of vegetation and trees for years. Do you know that doing this causes ambient temperatures to rise? We have flattened the earth so we can farms but by doing this we have actually desttoyed natural irrigation of the land. Humans can stop this, learn from doing better practices and stop our water resources from being sold off to foreign multinationals. You just don't get it because you don't inform yourself!!

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 6:00 pm 29 Dec 19

    Carolyn McGrath as I said, I don’t disagree with any of what you have mentioned. I am very well informed because I am involved in the result. What you and your ilk don’t seem to get is that no human intervention of any sort is going to change the current situation.

Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:19 pm 28 Dec 19

It truly amazes me how people with no knowledge about the complex nature of our fire response are making really dumb comments here. First of all, we have US and Canadian fire specialists on the ground and in the command centres. Second nearly all of our specialist firefighting aircraft are from the US and Canada for the season. Third, the ADF is very much involved in areas where their training assists. You cannot just dump untrained people on a fireground.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 8:40 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan ... we're asking untrained civilians to protect their homes. Why aren't we giving them a hand with ADF personnel even if it's delivering water and sandwiches...?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:44 pm 28 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley they are.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 8:47 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan took weeks. Now we need more. Now we need the ones trained to hold a hose involved.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 8:51 pm 28 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley they are. See further down this thread.

    Peter Major Peter Major 8:54 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan come on Les, you can't be talking facts in a situation like this. Well said👍

    Dean Colwill Dean Colwill 9:08 pm 28 Dec 19

    Les Jordan bang on man.

    Marmadoc Hornblower Marmadoc Hornblower 9:44 am 29 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley why do they have to be ADF personnel. What's stopping you from running some water or making some sandwiches?

    Ashish Madan Ashish Madan 2:14 pm 29 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley Defence have been involved since early Nov 2019 assisting. https://news.defence.gov.au/national/defence-continues-bushfire-support

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 2:38 pm 29 Dec 19

    Marmadoc Hornblower if my commonwealth employer said that's where I should work for the day... week.. month... I would be very proud to be of service. I wouldn't be on social media justifying it. The commonwealth government has a work force and any that could be useful should be!

    Marmadoc Hornblower Marmadoc Hornblower 3:17 pm 29 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley why wait? Take some leave and go

    Paulius Gutauskas Paulius Gutauskas 3:33 pm 29 Dec 19

    Because he took this job and he is not a terrorism expert, but surely seems like one as soon as a Muslim tries to enter the country, he is not an energy expert, but seems like thats all he can talk about as long as it is made from billion year old fossils, he is not an expert on anything, but for some reason he is leading the country, the only thing is clear that he is not leading it anywhere good. Debt is 4times higher than previous government ever had and they escaped recession, while this government is taking the country head on to one. What is the pm good for?talk about prosperity and Australian values from what I gather, oh and he is great if you are a multinational mining giant, if you have 29houses and want another one or if you are religious fanatic but only the one who has a cross on your neck then he is a great pm. Open your eyes and I can't really say that there is any one in the other side of politics who can do this job either, so sorry cant tell you of an alternative, we are all screwed🤦‍♂️happy new year, I think sydney having fireworks with a billion people audience and smoke cover will be a great tourism campaign so yes go ahead, cant see.the bridge what do they think will happen with fireworks?🤦‍♂️

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 10:55 am 31 Dec 19

    But do you honestly think they've done enough. Cobargo burnt to the ground this morning.

    I don't care if they've been 'involved '. If this is all they can do in a national catastrophe, God help us if we were at war.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 11:25 am 31 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley what more do you expect them to do?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 11:27 am 31 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley instead of moaning about things you know nothing about, Why don’t you get involved and volunteer yourself?

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 11:39 am 31 Dec 19

    Les Jordan is that the best you can do? Mobilize fat old ladies so our forces are ready to fight the next war?

    How about they mobilise and pick up the people currently standing in the water on our beaches. I hear the navy has boats and also all have fire fighting skills....

    You're mighty protective of the 'forces. Do you have as much protection for the people of Cobargo?

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 11:41 am 31 Dec 19

    Marmadoc Hornblower I'm ready to make sandwiches. Want one?

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 12:27 pm 31 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley clearly you know not of what you speak.🤣

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 12:40 pm 31 Dec 19

    Les Jordan - The limitations you are inferring of the forces ability to respond to crisis does mean I know nothing! I thought they were trained to tackle things with resources beyond bullets.

    So the boats can't move ? If they can't be used either, I'd say that Australia's defence forces are utterly worthless.

    What? Do they need a months warning? Additional training? Some weeks of preparation and logistics?

    Wasn't like that in 75 after Cyclone Tracy.

    But if you're the all-knowing, and I am the naive one - I give up! Tuck those guys and gals of the ADF up in their nests and let the farmers and villagers battle the dragon.

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 12:50 pm 31 Dec 19

    Cathy Dearnley I can’t speak for the navy and their boats. I suggest contact Chief of Navy for and answer. As far as the army goes, they are very much involved, as is the airforce.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 12:54 pm 31 Dec 19

    Les Jordan https://twitter.com/tyson_whelan/status/1211797889740967936

    Les Jordan Les Jordan 12:54 pm 31 Dec 19

    How about leaving the actual firefighting to the experts who are trained and able to handle it. Unfortunately the there will always be situations under catastrophic fire conditions where no human intervention will be enoungh to prevent a catastrophe.

    Cathy Dearnley Cathy Dearnley 10:47 pm 31 Dec 19

    Les Jordan what do you know? They can deploy to fight the fires after all. I sincerely hope they are safe and appreciate everything they can do.

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 8:11 pm 28 Dec 19

How about we send him back and ask them to swap for something more useful

A hose perhaps

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 7:51 pm 28 Dec 19

If this is the new normal – maybe not every summer, but far more often than in the past – then a lot of things need to change, not just fighting the fires.

Every time we have a major disaster like this, there is talk, for a time, about prevention – i.e. serious action (to use of a now popular phrase) on fuel loads – but nothing much ever changes, and there seems to be no end to the excuses and reasons why that is so. Likewise when it comes to building codes and zoning.

The idea that we can go on, summer after summer, with significant chunks of our population living in a constant state of anxiety and dread, and simply being told (by the same governments who are letting them down) to have their fire plans ready, is more than a little bit mad, and pathetically inadequate.

Amanda Adams Amanda Adams 6:40 pm 28 Dec 19

Yeh right ha ha he’s laughing till the retirement pension that he’s about to receive from all who have or brainwashed

Or just plain bloodystupid and so nieve totally suckled in disgraceful 😡😡👎

Anura Samara Anura Samara 6:30 pm 28 Dec 19

Firefighting isn't just a game of raw numbers ie. more people on the ground doesn't mean better outcomes. There are lots of things the ADF can and are doing but I'm not convinced direct firefighting is what they should be doing. To start with, our command and control systems are very different with crew leaders, sector leaders and divisional commanders on the ground given significant discretion on the tactics they deploy - that requires years of training and experience, not just physical bodies. You need to understand that to be integrated within an existing command framework.

    Margaret Gracie Margaret Gracie 7:57 pm 28 Dec 19

    What exactly are the ADF doing?

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:03 pm 28 Dec 19

    Margaret Gracie as I understand it, they do have some of their qualified firefighters backing up fire and rescue in some places, heavy plant (dozers etc), some aerial support (mapping) and logistics. All valuable roles they are good at. Could they do more in these areas? I’m not sure as I don’t know how many qualified personnel they have but definitely the scope is there.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 8:05 pm 28 Dec 19

    Anura Samara from what I’ve read there are none on the ground. In command centres, helping with transport.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 8:34 pm 28 Dec 19

    Narelle Ford I have seen photos of some assets on the ground but not frontline firefighting. All the roles I have mentioned are valuable. I'm just dubious about throwing them into frontline firefighting - despite what you might see on the news, it's not just about jumping out with a hose and squirting water at flames. There's training and experience that back up every action and decision that gets a crew to that point and then gets them out again safely.

    Narelle Ford Narelle Ford 8:55 pm 28 Dec 19

    Anura Samara I have heard it from a former ADF soldier.

    Anura Samara Anura Samara 9:59 pm 28 Dec 19

    Narelle Ford All I can go by is the photos I've seen online. I've been out to a few shifts now and never seen the ADF but that doesn't mean anything - big fires out there!

    Ashish Madan Ashish Madan 2:18 pm 29 Dec 19

    Margaret Gracie https://news.defence.gov.au/national/defence-continues-bushfire-support

Tanzil Hossain Tanzil Hossain 5:41 pm 28 Dec 19

KRudd did the right thing deploying more ADF. That is their title after all, Defence.

Alison Brittliff Alison Brittliff 5:11 pm 28 Dec 19

Um yes call in all the help we can’t get

Birgitte Jensen Birgitte Jensen 4:37 pm 28 Dec 19

The ADF has been assisting with fighting the fires since early November. https://news.defence.gov.au/national/defence-continues-bushfire-support#.XgbOZFteX_g.facebook

Bernie Noreen Bernie Noreen 4:32 pm 28 Dec 19

We should be doing absolutely everything possible via whatever means exist. There’s no going back once it’s too late 😢

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