Western Australians will have an extra layer of defence this bushfire season, with new waterbombing aircraft to be stationed in the state.
Central western and southern parts of the State are forecast to experience extreme fire risk in the months ahead, and communities are being urged to listen to warnings and get bushfire ready.
The Federal Member for Brand Madeleine King said Australia’s aerial firefighting capability will be significantly boosted by the National Large Air Tanker (LAT), funded by the Federal Government, which will be based in WA for the start of the summer bushfire season.
Speaking as the senior Western Australian Minister representing the Albanese Government, Federal Resources Minister and Minister for Northern Australia, Minister King confirmed the LAT would join the State Government’s fleet of fire fighting aircraft for the summer.
The LAT, known as Phoenix is a highly customised Boeing 737 able to reach anywhere in the country within hours and drop 15,000 litres of fire-retardant or water.
“Phoenix can operate around outer urban areas but also remote and difficult-to-reach locations, and can be deployed quickly to wherever it is needed, whenever it is needed,” Minister King said.
“All levels of government are planning ahead to put us in the best position possible to respond to the high-risk weather season we face.”
Dangerous fires have already occurred in Western Australia in the past month, with multiple Emergency Warnings already issued. These provide a timely reminder to ensure everyone is as prepared as possible.
Around 60 firefighters were called to combat a blaze in Hope Valley at the weekend.
Minister King thanked the efforts of emergency service workers.
She urged residents in Brand to pay attention to emergency alerts during bushfire season and to ensure they had a bushfire plan in place.
Western Australian Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson said bushfires were an inevitable part of the WA summer.
“For more than 20 years the State’s aerial fleet has been protecting life and property from above,” Minister Dawson said.
“We are very proud to have a second Large Air Tanker join the fleet – these aircraft were used a number of times with great effect last bushfire season.
“We welcome Phoenix to Western Australia, where it will be ready for rapid deployment when bushfires strike.”
The LAT will join over 150 aircraft in Australia’s sophisticated national firefighting fleet positioned around the country this season to protect communities against bushfires.
A competition to name the aircraft was organised last year and open to school students across Australia.
Three schools shared in the honour after the Year 5 students from both Bishop Druitt College in Coffs Harbour and Christian College Geelong, along with Year 7 students from St Patrick's College in Campbelltown, saw the phoenix - a mythological fire bird reborn from the ashes as the perfect metaphor for our new aerial firefighter.
In the past six months, the Albanese Government has made big changes to the way Australia prepares for and recovers from disasters, including:
- Unifying the two arms of federal emergency management to create the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), to be more efficient in disaster management.
- Legislating the Disaster Ready Fund to invest up to $200 million a year in mitigation projects like fire breaks, evacuation centres and flood levees.
- Fast-tracking recovery payments to help individuals, local councils, small businesses, primary producers and non-profit organisations get back on their feet faster after a disaster.
- Getting money out the door for resilience and betterment projects in disaster-prone regions.
- Investing in Disaster Relief Australia to provide recovery and clean up support after disasters.
- Taking action on future building developments on floodplains, by working with the state and territory governments through the National Cabinet process.
- Galvanising voluntary home buybacks in regions repeatedly impacted by floods.