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Fire Hawk boosts firefighting capability in Victoria

30 January 2017

For the first time in Victoria, a Black Hawk helicopter will be available to fight fires, as the state braces for hot, dry and windy conditions Monday. 

Known as the Fire Hawk, the helicopter is one of 72 aircraft on stand-by as Victoria experiences Extreme and Severe Fire Danger Ratings across Victoria while a state-wide Total Fire Ban has been declared. 

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said this is the first year the Fire Hawk helicopter has been in Australia and today’s fire conditions provided a great opportunity to test its capability in Victoria.

“It’s a fire bombing helicopter that has never operated in Victoria before, so we will be trialling it so we can understand its capability, know how it operates and see what it really does provide,’’ he said.

“It will be based in Ballarat but we will take it to wherever it needs to go depending on risk and need.

“The Fire Hawk has proven its capability overseas but it is important for us to see how it can integrate with and complement our existing aircraft fleet.’’

The Fire Hawk will be among one of the fastest aircraft in Victoria’s fleet, flying at 260 km/h. It also can carry up to 3400 litres and has a multi-drop bucket, allowing it control the release of water with the potential for it to unload across multiple areas before needing to refill.

Mr Lapsley said given the fire conditions forecast for Monday, Victoria had increased its fire bombing capability to keep small fires small and support firefighters on the ground.

“We have 72 aircraft at the ready today, including 41 firebombing aircraft. The other aircraft will be used for reconnaissance, air attack supervision and intelligence-gathering,’’ he said.

“Victoria’s fleet is made up of specialised aircraft that are strategically positioned across the state so they are available for a range of different types of fires and terrain to provide the best operational outcomes.

“Today is no different. We have experienced firefighters ready to go and the resources needed to support them so we can provide a quick response to get onto any fires early.’’

Victoria’s aircraft fleet is usually made up of 48 aircraft that can be supplemented with call-when-needed aircraft as required or on high risk days.

Victoria's aircraft fleet is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and State Governments, with the Commonwealth supporting operation of the air-cranes and Sikorsky helicopters as part of a national fleet.