A Tribute to Fire Fighters

Summer in Western Australia often results in high temperatures, sometimes combined with strong winds, and after many days of little or no rain, the vegetation can become dry and fire-prone.

The Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia leases fire fighting helicopters  each summer – usually from November to April. This year (2011/12), they have leased:

  • one Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter from the USA (9,500 litres capacity)
  • two Sikorsky S-61N helicopters from Canada (4,000 litres capacity)
  • four Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel helicopters from Helicopters Australia (1,000 litres capacity)
  • one Eurocopter (MBB) Bo-105LS-A3  of Heliwest (aerial command and control helicopter)
  • an unknown number of Air Tractor AT-602 and AT-802 fixed-wing aircraft (2,385 or 3,100 litres capacity, respectively)

The Department of Environment and Conservation conducts controlled burns, to reduce the amount of “fuel” (dry vegetation) so that bush fires are not as destructive or extensive.

** AAWA wishes to thank  fire fighters in the air and on the ground, for all that they do to safeguard lives and property.**

Margaret River Region Bush Fires – November 2011 & January 2012:

On 21 November 2011, a prescribed burn by the  Department of Environment and Conservation was started, but got out of control due to stronger than expected winds and high temperatures. The fire   burned for several days and 39 homes were destroyed, including nine tourist chalets and the historic  Wallcliffe House, which was built in 1865. Sixteen houses and one shop were also damaged. The  coastal  towns of Prevelly, Gnarabup and Redgate were affected. Fire fighters were extremely busy as other fires were  also burning near  Denmark, WA.

Two months later on 24 January 2012, a smaller  fire started near Gracetown. It burned about 50 hectares of  bushland, and was fortunately brought under control by the following day, thanks to the efforts of the fire fighters.

NOTE:               Donations to the victims of the 2011 Margaret River fires can be made to  the Lord Mayor’s Distress Relief Fund until 29 February 2012: http://www.appealswa.org.au/

ABOVE: C-FIBN / 681 Sikorsky S-61N (cn 61811) of VIH Helicopters Ltd (British Columbia, Canada), which was leased by the WA Fire and Emergency Services Authority for the 2011/12 bush fire season. It is seen here fighting fires as homes burn at Gnarabup on 24 November 2011.
Photo © Sean Blocksidge – used with permission
ABOVE: VH-… / 606 Air Tractor AT-602, which was leased by the WA Fire and Emergency Services Authority for the 2011/12 bush fire season.
It is seen here on 24 November 2011, fighting a fire near the historic Wallcliffe House – a mansion built in 1865, which unfortunately burned down. The red colour indicates that the aircraft is releasing fire retardant chemicals, rather than water.
Photo © Sean Blocksidge – used with permission
ABOVE: C-GHTN / 682 Sikorsky S-61N Mark II (cn 61755) of Helicopter Transport Services, on lease to FESA (Fire & Emergency Services Authority) for the 2011/12 bushfire season.
It is seen here on 24 January 2012, fighting fires near Gracetown (which can be seen to the right of photo).
Photo © Sean Blocksidge – used with permission
ABOVE: VH-… / 601 Air Tractor AT-802, which was leased by the WA Fire and Emergency Services Authority for the 2011/12 bush fire season.
It is seen here on 24 January 2012, releasing water onto the fire near Gracetown.
Photo used with kind permission of Sean Blocksidge

Perth Airport Bushfire – January 2012:

Perth Airport suffered a bush fire on 4 January 2012. The fire was reported at 12.23pm, but the cause is still  unknown. Approximately 65 hectares of bushland were burned.

It initially started on the south-west part of Perth  Airport, along both sides of Dunreath Road near Tonkin Highway and Leach  Highway, before moving in a southwest direction towards eastern parts of the  residential suburb of Cloverdale.

Tonkin Highway was closed in both directions  between Great Eastern Highway and Leach Highway, Leach Highway was closed in  both directions between Abernethy Road and Tonkin Highway, and Dunreath Drive  was closed between Horrie Miller Drive and Brearley Avenue. Residents in some  parts of Cloverdale and Kewdale were evacuated until the fire was brought under  control.

The Perth Airport Viewing Area was undamaged, but was not  re-opened until midday on 6 January 2012.

Other bushfires started by lightning were burning in various  locations around Perth on the same day.

Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA), Airport Rescue  Fire Fighting (ARFF), Bush Fire Service,  Main Roads WA, WA Police and the  Australian Federal Police provided assistance during the fire. One firefighter suffered minor burns and was taken to  hospital.

Besides the Helitaks involved were:

  • C-FIBN/681 Sikorsky S-61
  • VH-WCQ/670
  • VH-WCX/671

NOTE: AAWA wishes to point out that the photographers who took these photos did so from a safe distance, complying  with the instructions of fire fighters.

ABOVE : VH-WCX / 671 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3491) of Helicopters Australia, leased to FESA for the 2011/12 fire season.
Seen here on 4 January 2012, fighting the fire near Perth Airport.
Photo © Matt Hayes
ABOVE : VH-WCX / 671 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3491) of Helicopters Australia, leased to FESA for the 2011/12 fire season.
Seen here on 4 January 2012, fighting the fire near Perth Airport.
Photo © Matt Hayes
ABOVE : VH-WCQ / 670 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3195) of Helicopters Australia, leased to FESA for the 2011/12 fire season.
Seen here on 4 January 2012, fighting the fire near Perth Airport.
Photo © Matt Hayes
ABOVE : VH-WCQ / 670 Eurocopter AS350B3 Squirrel (cn 3195) of Helicopters Australia, leased to FESA for the 2011/12 fire season.
Seen here on 4 January 2012, fighting the fire near Perth Airport.
Photo © Matt Hayes

David Eyre

President, Aviation Association of WA Inc

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