Bush fire season zooms in

As the weather warms up, fire fighting aircraft are primed and ready for take-off from Scone airport.

Pays Air Service pilot Mat Baker said after the last two comparatively wet summers, this summer looks like being a scorcher on and off the airfield.

“Fire season has started unusually early this year,” Mr Baker said.

“We have already been called out to fight fires in Kempsey, Grafton and Gloucester.

“With the weather being so dry it looks like it will be a very busy summer for us.”

Mr Baker said they had already attended more bush fires than in the last two seasons combined.

 “It is very much a team effort with the NSW State Air Desk coordinating all fire control air traffic in conjunction with the NSW Rural Fire Service.

Pilot Mat Baker of Pays Air Service in the Air Tractor 802F he has been flying a lot recently to control bush fires from Kempsey to Warialda.

Pilot Mat Baker of Pays Air Service in the Air Tractor 802F he has been flying a lot recently to control bush fires from Kempsey to Warialda.

“The Air Tractor 802F (plane) can take up to 3200 litres of water at a time from the ground, while the helicopters can fill from the air from a dam or other water source using a suspended bucket system.

“We are mostly told where to drop the water by the air attack supervisor who watches the fire from a helicopter and directs all air borne assets

 (helicopters and planes). 

“There are still plenty of dangers, but everything we do is about safety –if it is too dangerous, we don’t fly,” Mr Baker said.

Negotiating narrow valleys, burning trees and turbulence are just some of the dangers.

 “Hitting a target at 200km an hour with low visibility is definitely a challenge.

“Usually we are called out when the ground crew are unable to contain the fire, but it is very much a coordinated effort,” Mr Baker said.

Pays Air Service assists the NSW Rural Fire Service with fire control across NSW using a combination of 7 fixed wing Air Tractor 802F bombers and 3 Squirrel AS350 and UH1 Huey helicopters.

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