By ERWIN CHLANDA
There is fresh information about using large water bombers, the lack of which is likely to have substantially extended the area of the West MacDonnell National Park burned in January, and put at risk up to 80 firefighters battling the blaze for 17 days.
The information obtained by the Alice Springs News Online comes from the Tasmanian Fire Service (TFS) which also fought a massive wild fire but used big aircraft.
Previously, Joshua Fischer, of Bushfires NT, said: “Very large air tankers deploy a mixture of water and retardant.
“Fire bombing in environmentally sensitive areas should avoid locating retardant loads near water courses, steep slopes or areas of impermeable soils.”
But a TFS spokesman said today: “With regard to water bombing operations, TFS does not exclude areas on the basis of impermeable soil, nor steep slopes.
“We will avoid using foams or retardants around highly sensitive areas such as dairy farms or specially identified water courses where the risk of water run-off from using foam and retardants outweighs the benefits.
“An example would be egg laying or nursery areas for identified marine organisms, we would still use water though.”
Another spokesman for TFS said recently it uses mostly just water for the fire bombing, and “the foams and retardants dropped on these fires are bio-degradable and not considered a concern in the concentrations used for firefighting”.
In reply to a question from the News about what percentage of the 2110 square kilometre fire affected area had been water bombed the spokesman said: “The TFS does not record that particular statistic. However I can say as a percentage of that total area it will be very small.”
PHOTO: C130 Hercules. SBS News.
By ERWIN CHLANDA