Sky-high fire fight

 A record fleet of 50 aircraft will hit the skies to help fight fires and keep communities safe this summer season.

The State Government announced the 2019–‘20 aircraft fleet would feature water bombing aircraft, air supervision and air intelligence-gathering aircraft.

“These 50 aircraft will be strategically positioned across the state and work with our firefighters to help keep communities safe,” Emergency Management Commissioner Andrew Crisp said.

The fleet includes two large air tankers that can carry up to 15,000 litres of water, foam or retardant; and two 7500 litre aircranes that provide essential support to other aircraft across the state.

Specialist night-time aircraft can conduct firebombing and intelligence operations after dark, if conditions are suitable.

“Our firefighters do a fantastic job on the ground and aircraft will help support that effort,” Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said.

Victoria’s emergency service agencies are preparing for an elevated fire season for East and West Gippsland and similar conditions to last season for the rest of the state.

The air fleet has been critical in stopping fires spreading in recent years, providing immediate response in the early stage and supporting firefighters on the ground.

Firefighting aircraft were dispatched 2466 times during 2018–‘19, an 11 per cent increase on the previous year.

A surge capacity of up to 100 aircraft, which can be called to supplement the core fleet when needed, will also support Victoria.