ABC News Logo

By Sam Tomlin – ABC Esperance on WED 3 FEB 2016

Photo: Bushfire Front chairman Roger Underwood says large water bombers, such as this Canadian-built Hercules, are a poor investment for the WA Government by Margaret Paul.

A retired general manager of the former Department of Conservation and Land Management has questioned the effectiveness of water bombers in fighting large-scale fires such as those in Western Australia this bushfire season.

The State Government and Department of Fire and Emergency Services have faced pressure over the issue of aerial support for firefighting, after it emerged it rejected the offer of a DC-10 and a Hercules water bomber to help fight last month’s catastrophic fire near Yarloop.

It followed on from criticism of the slow deployment of aerial support to the Esperance bushfires last November.

But Bushfire Front WA chairman Roger Underwood said water bombers made little difference to bushfires of the scale and intensity that struck the state this summer.

“The thing that’s disturbed me are the calls for the WA Government to start investing in more and bigger water bombers,” he said.

“You may as well take an aeroplane load full of dollars, fly up over the flames, and let them loose.

“It’s money being wasted.”

Aircraft not the magic bullet

With more than four decades experience in WA forestry and fire management, Mr Underwood said aircraft could play a key support role.

But he said suggestions they could effectively extinguish large-scale fires were misguided, and had the potential to distract from preparation for future fires.

“Where water bombers fall down is that dropping water on a raging forest inferno simply doesn’t make any difference to it,” Mr Underwood said.

Photo: A helicopter water bomber dumps its load on a bushfire.

“The water basically evaporates before it gets to the flames.”

“Or if a drop puts flames out at point A, the fire will spread to point B before the aircraft can get back again.”

A report by the CSIRO into the use of the DC-10, a Canadian-built plane that can hold up to 43,000 litres of water or fire-retardant chemicals, found mixed results from their deployment during the 2009–2010 bushfire season.

A mild fire season meant the aircraft could only be deployed to one wildfire, and while it dropped its payload on target, changeable weather and “discontinuous” fuels meant it did not affect the fire’s behaviour.

Further trial drops were also found to have limited effectiveness, while the concerns were raised that drops from too low an altitude could potentially damage trees and buildings and potentially endanger the lives of firefighters below.

The danger makes communication between firefighters and pilots critical, a problem exposed in Esperance, where radio communication between pilots and local farmers on the fire front were near-impossible due to infrastructure damage.

“Water bombers generally can’t operate in high winds, and they can’t operate at night,” Mr Underwood said.

“A lot of our very worst bushfires occur at night time, when water bombers are sitting on the ground.

“Yarloop burned at night, and so did Dwellingup in 1961.”

Photo: The recent Dalyup bushfire was one of three fires around Esperance ignited by lighting strikes last month by Jake Medley.

Fuel mitigation, community leadership need to be prioritised

With Esperance farmers launching their own inquiry into last November’s fires, concerns have been raised over the restrictions placed on landowners, preventing them from clearing and managing combustible bushland.

Farmers fear the State Government’s inquiry, which will focus on the damage and response to the Yarloop fire, will overlook the communication and fuel management problems that contributed to the Esperance blaze.

Mr Underwood said funding and resources should be directed to addressing these issues, rather than investing in what he labelled a “distraction”.

“People are looking for a technological fix to what is basically a problem of land management,” he said.

“If we manage our land correctly — reducing the hazard, dealing with the fuels, and preparing for fire properly — then we won’t need this massive, and obscenely expensive, technological solution.”

He said the Bushfire Front would be making a submission to the privately-backed Esperance inquiry, and would emphasise the problems surrounding fuel mitigation and control.

“The Esperance situation, in terms of bushfires, is a difficult one,” he said.

“Most of the time, the weather on the south coast isn’t that bad, but you get really bad bushfire conditions for a few days.”

“Under those conditions, when it’s 42 degrees Celsius and a screaming wind from the north, once a fire gets going it’s very difficult to stop.”

He said bushland in the shire’s north needed to be better prepared for future lightning strikes, the key factor behind a string of recent fires.

Click HERE or the logo (above) to view the original article on the ABC News website.

Water bombers a waste of money for preventing catastrophic bushfires says veteran fire researcher
Content Sharing

Related Posts

  • Coonabarabran Farmer and Bushfire fighter, Rod Young was interviewed by Prime 7 News in relation to the upcoming announcement by the NSW State Government regarding the findings of the Public Enquiry into the disastrous bushfires of January 2013. The NSW…

  • In Western Australia in the early 1960s, a revolutionary technology was developed: lighting fuel reduction burns using aircraft. Its adoption by forest managers ensured there was an entire generation of Western Australians protected from the ravages of severe wildfires. In…

  • The second in a series of adverts has been published in The Land newspaper (page 32) on Thursday 11th December 2014. The text reads as follows: The Fire Fight over Potato Point Imagine for a minute you're a resident of Potato…

One thought on “Water bombers a waste of money for preventing catastrophic bushfires says veteran fire researcher

  • January 20, 2020 at 7:42 am

    Large water bombers can deliver water drops over the area ahead of the firefront.
    Water bombing can be deployed over bushland where ground firefighters are not present
    & this should have been done on kangaroo island. Fires were allowed to burn as a government wildlife cull !
    The lack of water , extreme winds that accompany these weather fronts are caused by deliberate geoengineered weather , used to coverup global warming caused by fossil fuels
    the many patents that are owned by Raytheon that delivers the weather data to NASA & NOAA can be found on website; Geoengineering Watch.Org

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

where to buy viagra buy generic 100mg viagra online
buy amoxicillin online can you buy amoxicillin over the counter
buy ivermectin online buy ivermectin for humans
viagra before and after photos how long does viagra last
buy viagra online where can i buy viagra