Senate bushfire inquiry calls for fast-attack aerial fire-fighting fleet


Fire in the Grose Valley, Blue Mountains. Photo Ian Brown

The federal senate bushfire inquiry has recommended the government commit to investigating fast attack strategies in its interim report, Lessons to be learned in relation to the Australian bushfire season 2019-20, handed down this week.

The inquiry is one of a number to have been conducted since the bushfire disaster, including the royal commission and the NSW bushfire inquiry.  

The senate inquiry has released 13 recommendations for future bushfire seasons including building a sovereign aerial firefighting fleet and urgently investing in resilience and mitigation works. 

A former incident controller and now member of the Independent Bushfire Group, Geoff Luscombe, has welcomed the recommendation for an aerial fire-fighting fleet.

He said some remote lightning fires which later became disasters could have been put out shortly after ignition with a strong force of specialised helicopters, bombers and remote area fire crews, dedicated only to extinguishing these remote area ignitions.

“Supported by the best lightning strike detection technologies, these teams could act quickly while there were only one or two trees alight,” Mr Luscombe said.

“Changes in decision-making and investment in specialised fire-fighting can ensure more lightning fires are put out early, thus reducing costs and impacts on communities and bushland.

“It is clear that we are in unchartered territory for future fire seasons, and we need radical changes in the way we understand and fight fires in the era of climate change."

The Independent Bushfire Group, which includes 13 fire management veterans and researchers with more than 450 years of fire experience between them, has analysed 11 fires from the last catastrophic season.

Mr Luscombe said future severe fires seasons will be closer together and more extreme and practices which were developed in the past now need radical rethinking.

“We strongly support the approach being taken by the committee to a whole of community fire mitigation effort and the shift in emphasis of prescribed burning closer to communities,” he said.

The Independent Bushfire Group’s report Reducing the cost and impact of bushfires, is available here.