The McGowan Labor Government has committed $11 million over four years in the 2022-23 State Budget to secure the first Large Air Tanker (LAT) to be based permanently in Western Australia during bushfire season.
In a major boost to WA’s aerial firefighting fleet, the LAT will be based at a yet to be determined local airport for three months each year from December to March, when the State is most vulnerable to the threat of bushfires.
There has never been a LAT exclusively for WA, with the State previously relying on available aircraft through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre.
A number of LATs were utilised during a challenging 2021-22 bushfire season that included four major fires that occurred simultaneously in February.
They played key roles since they are incredibly effective at building containment lines to stop the spread of bushfires and helped firefighters protect lives and homes.
The contracted national LAT performed 76 drops totalling 984,557 litres of retardant this summer while borrowed LATs from other States performed 41 drops totalling 460,964 litres of retardant.
LATs are faster, have a larger capacity, longer range, are able to fly in extreme conditions and under low visibility and will provide the Department of Fire and Emergency Services with significant complementary fire suppression capability.
The addition of the LAT strengthens WA’s aerial fleet after the acquisition this summer of two Black Hawk helicopters on a three-year contract.
“The McGowan Government’s decision to commit to a dedicated Large Air Tanker for the State acknowledges the challenging conditions emergency services personnel have experienced in recent bushfire seasons.
“Western Australia has the largest emergency management jurisdiction in the southern hemisphere, which is why our Government has committed to providing a WA-based LAT for the first time.
“The McGowan Government is committed to ensuring the safety of our local and regional communities and the addition of the first State Government operated Large Air Tanker will play a vital role in keeping our communities safe.
“It is imperative that the State’s aerial fleet has all the resources it needs to keep local communities, the length and breadth of the vast expanses of WA, safe during bushfire season.
“Having a LAT exclusively for Western Australia – for the first time – provides a major boost to the State’s firefighting capability and reduces the reliance on national aircraft availability.”
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