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    Celebrating 50 years of bushfire aerial detection

    2022 marks the 50-year anniversary of Western Australia’s bushfire aerial detection fleet – a small fleet of planes flown by skilled pilots that helps detect bushfires as part of WA’s early bushfire detection network.

     

    The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions’ (DBCA) aerial spotter fleet contributes to the broader Western Australian aerial fleet that also includes water bombing aircraft and air intelligence helicopters managed jointly by DBCA and the Department of Fire and Emergency Services.

     

    From humble beginnings in early 1972 as a trial with just one hired Cessna 150 plane, the current fleet consists of 10 American Champion Scout aircraft flown by three full-time pilots and several seasonal pilots.

     

    The fleet operates out of four main bases across the south-west – Jandakot, Bunbury, Manjimup and Albany – providing critical information to fire controllers from about 350 bushfires each year.

     

    The planes fly in pre-determined district circuits according to weather conditions, each covering 110 nautical miles or about 215 kilometres.

     

    The fleet also provides search and rescue support to the community and is used in scientific work such as radio tracking for fauna projects.

     

    The aerial detection fleet is supported by 13 fire lookout towers and satellite technology used to detect and monitor fires in the early bushfire detection network.

     

    The fleet has flown more than 1,630 flights (almost 3,000 hours) as a detection service and almost 200 flights (almost 400 hours) as air attack platforms during the 2021-22 bushfire season.

     

    Comments attributed to Environment Minister Reece Whitby:

     

    “The aerial spotter fleet provides a vitally important service to the community by providing advance notice of bushfires across our State each year.

     

    “I thank the fire managers who saw the need to initiate this approach over 50 years ago and congratulate the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions for continuing to provide this valuable community service, along with the broader early bushfire detection network of services.”

     

    Comments attributed to Emergency Services Minister Stephen Dawson:

     

    “As we’ve sadly experienced this summer, the severity and frequency of bushfires across the State’s south continues to have serious and life-threatening impacts.

     

    “Over the past 50 years, the fire detection services of these aircraft and pilots has saved lives and homes from the effects of bushfire thanks to the information they relay back to incident controllers.”

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