Eyes in the sky help fight fires

The view from a Helitac of a bushfire on the outskirts of Perth during the 2012-13 bush fire season.
The view from a Helitac of a bushfire on the outskirts of Perth during the 2012-13 bush fire season.

For the ninth bushfire season in a row, the HNZ Helitacs, based at Perth Airport, worked to protect the Perth Hills from fire.

Since November, crews and helicopters that are operated under contract to the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) remained on standby for rapid deployment to protect homes and property.

In one of the busiest fire-seasons on record, about 1600 fire incidents were reported across the metropolitan area.

Only a fraction of those escalated to the point of calling for aerial support, but the Helitacs still became airborne on more than 60 days during the season.

Helitac pilot Brenton Davis said often the choppers were already in the air attending a fire when a call came in to respond to a second incident.

‘This season, more than ever before, DFES have launched the helicopters in early response to new fires,’ he said.

‘Being able to get to the fire early has allowed us to deliver an accurate volume of water in critical spots, which allow ground crews to get on top of the problem early.’

‘This strategy has had great results, with so many fires never being able to reach the problem levels we have sometimes seen in the past.’

Mr Davis said the largest fire of the season turned out to be a result of bad luck rather than bad people.