UPDATE: Military assets deployed in Australian bushfire emergency

fire australia

Ships and helicopters from the Australian Defence Force have been deployed to East Gippsland in an effort to rescue thousands of people who have been stranded on a beach by out of control bushfires.

Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has been working with Emergency Management Australia to assist with firefighting efforts in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria and South Australia since November 8.

Defence established liaison officers in the State Disaster Coordination Centres (SDCC) in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia when the SDCC ‘stood up’. The SDCC in Queensland is currently ‘stood down’.

In the next five days, the following additional support is planned: 

Ongoing Defence Assistance to the Civil Community (DACC) support to current events.

  • Navy support.  HMAS Choules and MV Sycamore will begin relief operations in Mallacoota this morning, including supporting the relocation of vulnerable and high-priority people to Westernport.
  • Air Force support.  One C-27 Spartan aircraft, based at RAAF Base Amberley, will arrive in Victoria today to support the movement of firefighters within Victoria, as well as provide humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.
  • Aviation Support. Two CH-47 Chinooks will deploy from Townsville to provide additional support and are scheduled to arrive at RAAF Base East Sale on Saturday, January 4. These aircraft will provide support to firefighting operations, as well as provide humanitarian assistance to remote and isolated communities.
  • Helicopter support.  Two S-70A Black Hawk helicopters and one MRH-90 Taipan helicopter were deployed to Victoria on January 1 and are based out of RAAF Base East Sale.These helicopters have been involved in transporting firefighters from Bairnsdale to Mallacoota and transporting the injured and vulnerable from Mallacoota to East Sale for medical treatment by emergency services.  
  • Transport and logistics. An expansion of the ground transport and logistics tasks already supported to five new locations – Tamworth, Mudgee, Nowra, Maitland and Queanbeyan. This task is expected to run from January 6-20.
  • Mobility operations. The provision of personnel and equipment to supplement state capabilities to clear and reopen roads in fire-affected areas of Victoria, as well as general engineering tasks to remove debris from public areas and clear fire breaks and fire trails. This will begin today with priority for the Gippsland region.
  • Support to evacuation operations.  Provision of access to RAAF Base East Sale as a staging point to receive the flights evacuating vulnerable persons from Mallacoota and for the Department of Health and Human Services to collect the evacuated persons.  This will begin today.
  • Light engineering. Fire trail clearance at Mudgee from January 6-10.
  • Recovery operations.  Provision of personnel and equipment to undertake recovery tasks as identified and assessed by the NSW Government based on advice from specialist ADF advisers.  These tasks - in Tamworth, Wollondilly, Nowra, Mudgee, Maitland and Wingecarribee - will start from January 6.

From 31 December:

It is believed that around 4,000 people have gathered on a beach at Mallacoota to escape the fire in the far south east of the state of Victoria as the fire threatened to engulf the town; a change of wind direction just a few hours later meant the town was not destroyed. Despite this good news, thousands of residents and tourists are in need of food, water and medicine – and with fires still making road access difficult, the Navy is sending ships to aid the evacuation effort, while heavy-lift helicopters are being deployed to evacuate the most vulnerable. A joint task force from the Navy and Air Force has been established to co-ordinate the rescue effort. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds authorized the deployment of four helicopters, one fixed-wing aircraft and two ships. The helicopters include one Chinook, two Black Hawks and one Taipan naval chopper. Two C-27J Spartan battlefield airlifters from the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at East Sale will also be available for support efforts. RAAF bases are currently being used as SAR bases, providing meals to firefighters, accommodation to volunteers and assisting in fire mapping.

Additional aerial firefighting resources – including personnel and aircraft – have been requested from the US and Canada.