Fire conditions continue to be high in our area, with very little rain and parched vegetation. Most of you understand that a permit is required from your local Brigade captain (Middle Dural: Len Best 0408 220 705) if you wish to do any pile burning. However, in these extreme and very dry conditions, a permit is unlikely to be granted. Permits are not just a matter of the captain’s judgement but also at the discretion of the RFS District Headquarters.
In spite of these extreme conditions, Middle Dural has fortunately not experienced any fires this month.
In February, a group of us visited the RAAF air base at Richmond for a tour of the RFS Aviation section. We were shown around the NSW Rural Fire Service DC-10 (Very Large Air Tanker or VLAT) water bombing aircraft, named ‘Nancy Bird’ in honour of Nancy-Bird Walton, Australia’s first woman to obtain a commerical pilot’s licence. This plane and smaller LAT are on contract from the USA for our fire season, with an American crew that move around the world, fire fighting. It was a huge thrill to have a guided tour by the captain (centre of picture below, together with Brigade members Wolf Hofbrucker and Paul Eltakchi).
The crew have stripped all possible weight from Nancy Birds’s interior, providing a very interesting insight into the skeleton of a large aircraft.
Large lead weights have been bolted to the floor of the aircraft to assist in maintaining a safe centre of gravity.
The captain described the adrenalin rush as they fly only 100m above the tree line, guided by RFS experts in a leading plane, or “bird dog”. Apart from the inherent danger of flying so low, the other major challenge is in controlling the aircraft when its centre of gravity moves dramatically as the water load is released from the huge tanks suspended under the plane.
The VLAT carries 43,900L of water, generally fire retardant. Australian crews prepare the fire retardant on the ground and have to be ready at a moment’s notice to fill or refill the VLAT. The plumbing that enables the filling in less than a quarter of an hour was very impressive.