By Jennette Lees – November 27, 2015
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The Stockinbingal fireground from the aircraft of Adams Aerial Services which was first on scene. Picture: Scott Adams
Cootamundra pilot Scott Adams, of Adams Aerial Services, is furious he was called out of the airspace above the fire at Stockinbingal by the Rural Fire Service (RFS), who say he was never requested to attend the fire which broke out on Yeo Yeo Hampstead Road on Friday morning.
Mr Adams, who has friends, family and clients across the district, responded to the fire when he saw smoke and was the first aircraft on scene.
He said he was able to drop two loads of water on the fireground, helping to bring the blaze, which was moving fast through a standing crop, under control while ground crews mobilised.
While Adams Aerial Services have been contracted to the RFS previously, the type of plane they fly is currently under review, hence all pilots with this plane have been suspended from RFS service pending the results of this investigation.
Knowing he was not going to be paid by the RFS, Mr Adams was still happy to help over the fire as a community service.
With property, livestock, crops and even lives at risk every time a fire starts, Mr Adams argued the paramount concern should be getting the fire out, not which agency planes are or are not contracted to.
With 20 years of water bombing experience under his belt, he certainly knows what he is doing in the sky and said he has been in contact with the firefighting helicopter from Cootamundra which was also used in the Stockinbingal fire in order to coordinate radio channels.
His concerns are echoed by local farmer Andrew Roberts of Hillside Pastoral Co, who said if there is a fire over his property, he wants to be able to call on whoever is necessary to extinguish it in the timeliest fashion.
“As soon as you see a puff of smoke, you have to jump on it,” Mr Roberts said.
“He (Adams Aerial Services) had the fire as good as out before anyone got to it,” he continued.
He called on a commonsense approach from the RFS when it comes to available resources, calling the move to stop Mr Adams waterbombing “bureaucratic nonsense”.
Mr Roberts was particularly concerned by a claim that the RFS would withdraw their own fixed wing water bomber (flown in from Cowra) and water bombing helicopter from Cootamundra should Mr Adams not withdraw from the airspace over the fire.
The RFS confirmed the ban on the use of aircraft the style of Mr Adams’ is temporary while an investigation is completed.
“Following the tragic death of David Black in October 2013, and the ATSB launching an investigation into the matter, the NSW Rural Fire Service suspended the use of Turbine Dromader aircraft until the findings are known,” A NSW RFS spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said they will review the findings of this investigation before allowing this type of aircraft to once again be used on NSW RFS controlled firegrounds.
In the meantime, the spokesperson, referring specifically to the Stockinbingal fire, said Mr Adams was not requested by them to attend.
“The practice of self responding is unsafe and outside of NSW RFS policies and procedures,” the spokesperson said.
“The NSW RFS places the safety of firefighters and aircraft operators as our number one priority, and the service cannot allow unsafe practices to occur that may affect that.”
With a long, hot summer not yet upon us, the district is likely to experience further grassfires and Mr Adams said he should not be deterred from performing a community service, a sentiment backed by at least one local farmer in Mr Roberts.