26 September 2023

Air tanker to join services in fire fights

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Western Australia has secured its first Large Air Tanker (LAT) to be based permanently in the State during the bushfire season.

Minister for Emergency Services, Stephen Dawson said the LAT would operate out of a yet-to-be-determined local airport from December to March each year — the period when the State was most vulnerable to the threat of bushfires.

Mr Dawson said that, in the past, Western Australia had to rely on available aircraft through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.

He said a number of LATs were utilised during the challenging 2021-22 bushfire season that included four major fires occurring simultaneously in February.

“They played key roles since they are incredibly effective at helping to create containment lines to stop the spread of bushfires,” Mr Dawson said.

“LATs are faster, have a larger capacity, longer range, are able to fly in extreme conditions and under low visibility, and will provide the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with significant complementary fire-suppression capability.”

The Minister said the addition of the LAT strengthened the State’s aerial fleet after the acquisition of two Black Hawk helicopters on a three-year contract.

“Western Australia has the largest emergency management jurisdiction in the Southern Hemisphere and it is imperative the State’s aerial fleet has all the resources it needs to keep local communities safe during the bushfire season,” he said.

“Having a LAT exclusively for Western Australia provides a major boost to the State’s firefighting capability and reduces the reliance on national aircraft availability,” Mr Dawson said.

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