Australia’s Green Triangle Fire Alliance (GTFA) has received a B2 Squirrel helicopter from the state government of Victoria, to support firefighting efforts in the Green Triangle region.
The helicopter, which has been contracted through the Victorian government and forms part of the state’s aerial fleet, will support more than 300 plantation firefighters working on the ground this summer, as well as a fleet of fixed-wing firefighting aircraft.
The GTFA’s nine-member forestry companies are providing funding for the aircraft to be based at Casterton airfield.
The aircraft has a cruise speed of around 110 knots (204km/h) with a 540km range, has an external lifting capacity of 800kg and can be equipped with a 1000 litre bucket.
Negotiations are ongoing to expand operations into South Australia
The aircraft is currently restricted to operation within the state of Victoria; however, negotiations are ongoing with the South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) to enable operation in South Australia’s Limestone Coast region.
The Green Triangle is an area of dense forest which covers an area of approximately six million hectares, spanning a border area between the states of South Australia and Victoria. In addition to natural forest, the region also contains extensive hard and softwood plantations.
According to GTFA General Manager Anthony Walsh: “While the fixed wing bombers carry a greater load, the advantage of a helicopter is that it can find water in close proximity to a fire which supports very short turnaround times. The helicopter has already been deployed twice, including providing valuable support at the recent Poolaijelo fire.”
“Other aircraft may leave the region to attend fires elsewhere across the state, but this helicopter will remain at its Casterton base for the 14-week service period until the end of March,” he added.