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/
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
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.