26 September 2023

Night flights flying to fight night fires

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The State’s Night Aviation Program has taken off for a seventh consecutive year as Victoria enters its highest fire-risk period of summer.

Seeing off the first flight, the Minister for Emergency Services, Jaclyn Symes said the program included two night firebombing helicopters and a CH47 Chinook which had already been supporting operations during the day.

“An aerial intelligence gathering Firebird 308 helicopter is supporting night operations, aided by new technology including an infra-red high-definition video camera,” Ms Symes said.

“These enhancements will help operational decision-making and can be streamed to control centres to better inform operations,” she said.

“While based at Essendon, the helicopters have the ability to be deployed across the State.”

Ms Symes said that as grasses dried out, the night aviation fleet provided a vital extra element in efforts to protect communities across the State.

“This is the period where we know risk can be higher, and we’re remaining vigilant night and day,” the Minister said.

She said night crews were highly experienced and would complete reconnaissance flights during the afternoon before conducting water bombing flights at night.

Ms Symes said the State’s aircraft had responded to about 200 fires so far this summer.

“These aircraft have also been important for the flood response over recent months, with helicopters like the Chinook along with a huge effort from their crews and support staff crucial to keeping Victorians safe,” she said.

“I want to also thank the crews and personnel who have been operating aircraft right across Victoria through the massive flooding event – I saw first-hand the difference these assets made to regional communities.”

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