Shire of Murray provides funding for Coolup airfield


Wheeler Field serves as an important part of aerial firefighting in the region.
Wheeler Field serves as an important part of aerial firefighting in the region.

It will also negotiate a lease with landowners at the airstrip to house pilot transportable buildings and facilities.

Coolup resident Ra Wheeler built the airfield at his own expense 19 years ago and it has been used every year since then for airborne firefighter training and active fire bomber operations.

In the last fire season there were more than 440 fixed wing aircraft and helicopter movements, lifting more than 1,209,600 litres of water into the sky and on to bushfires (equal to 41 30,000-litre tankers).

Over the 10 days of the Yarloop fires, 200 litres of water was lifted every minute during daylight hours.

But the airfield is in desperate need of development and maintenance work, which would cost about $180,000.

Mr Wheeler and former shire president Noel Nancarrow have appealed to the five Peel councils for help to the tune of $20,000 each, for works including resurfacing dirt runways with gravel, enlarging the dam and installation of transportable buildings for storage and shelter for firefighters working in often intense heat.

Mr Wheeler told the council two water bombers were based in Bunbury and four in Jandakot.

“Two should be based at Coolup,’’ he said.

Shire President Dean Unsworth said the City of Mandurah had offered help, Waroona was in, Serpentine-Jarrahdale was unsure and he would soon meet the shires of Boddington and Harvey.

The Peel Development Commission was very supportive and the Peel-Harvey Catchment Centre was interested.

Cr Unsworth said local landowners would also be lobbied to contribute.

According to a council report, there was a real risk of losing Preston Beach during the Yarloop fires and for the fire to have reached the southern areas of Mandurah.

The risk to Murray residents and Peel was increasing due to the urban encroachment into rural areas and the increase in temperatures.