The 2019/2020 fire season in Australia forced many state governments to take a good hard look at their level of firefighting preparedness, Queensland is no exception.
One of the constant struggles for all states in Australia with the increase in fire severity not just in Australia, but around the world, has complicated the global supply of aerial assets often used in multiple countries around the world over a calendar year. The latest fire season showed that there were holes in that plan that needed to be filled on a semi-permanent basis.
One of the problems for larger states like Queensland in Australia is the sheer size of the state and the area that needs to be covered. To address that issue Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk authorized the spending of $15 million on a long-term contract for a Large Air Tanker, a Conair owned Q400 given the title Bomber 141, will now be located in the city of Bundaberg in Northern Queensland, approximately four hours from the capital city of Brisbane. The centralized location of the aircraft and a new aerial firefighting base will allow the Q-400 to deploy rapidly across the state to wildfires as needed.
The 2019/2020 fires season burned over 19 million acres throughout Queensland.
“The aircraft will bolster the state’s aerial firefighting capabilities over the next five years and leave Queensland better prepared ahead of this year’s fire season. We saw how valuable waterbombing efforts were at Peregian, Sarabah, Stanthorpe, and Pechey last year and that’s why we started planning for the acquisition of our very own LAT,” Ms Palaszczuk said.
“This 10,000 liter (2670 Gallon) aircraft will ensure our communities are protected – from this bushfire season and well into the future,” she added.
QFES will spend an additional $40,000 equipping Bundaberg Airport with water and electrical infrastructure that is essential for the filling of the Q400 with water or retardant in addition to large mixing tanks for the retardant to be mixed in and office space for the crews to utilize.
“Together, these measures will provide seamless firefighting resupply services that will see improvements to bushfire safety of the entire Bundaberg community,” said Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick.
The decision to create the long term lease was an easy one according to officials based on the last fire season, which saw Queensland relying on LAT aircraft from other states being available, which was further complicated as fires raged in the southern states of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, and South Australia which reduced the availability of LAT aircraft to help in the Queensland effort.