Longer fire seasons in the northern and southern hemispheres are making it more challenging for countries to share firefighting resources, a topic that was addressed at an international conference.
Almost 280 people came from around Australia as well as Canada, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK and USA to share knowledge and best practices at the Aerial Firefighting Conference, which was held at the NSW Rural Fire Service Training Centre in Dubbo on Wednesday, August 2 and Thursday, August 3.
Deputy commissioner of the NSW RFS, Peter McKechnie, told ACM the longer firefighting season is making it "more challenging" to share aircraft and personnel at times "but ultimately we do share resources".
"We see our aerial firefighting specialists regularly travelling to the US and Canada, and we've seen aerial firefighting specialists in Australia in the 2019-20 fires," he said, adding that training is consistent across countries.
With its long and serious fire season, Australia is quick to adopt firefighting technologies, including remotely-piloted aerial systems.
New technologies were on display at the two-day conference including sensors, scanners and cameras to give firefighters more insight into fire-grounds while working to fight the flames from above.
Mr McKechnie said the conference had a focus on aviation safety, "given we've seen some tragic accidents around the world".
Only last month [July 2023], four Australian Defence Force members died when a helicopter crashed during a military exercise in Queensland.
"[These events were] just reminding us of our focus [on safety] ... it's a partnership between operators, pilots and agencies," he said.
Conference visitors gained insight into safety inroads being made across the world, and Mr McKechnie said standards and approaches were similar between partner countries including the USA and Canada.
"We've been able to compare training and standards to make sure people can move between countries and be able to support them," Mr McKechnie said.
He added: "Australia can be very proud of the aerial firefighting capabilities we have here. We can certainly be proud our aviation specialists can so easily transition into helping other countries."
Julia Guy, international relations at Tangent Link - the company organising the conference - said Dubbo was "a great location" and negotiations are underway for the event to take place at the same venue again in two years.
"[The conference] provided an ideal opportunity for the international and Australian aerial firefighting communities to re-connect after a long absence [due to COVID]," she said.
"[The conference] provided a valuable assembly point for the community to come together to develop and promote international best practice to boost emergency aerial firefighting response capability."
The RFS training facility in Dubbo will soon be expanded to include an Australia-first aviation centre of excellence where firefighters will be able to train in simulators to improve their skills on the field.
IN OTHER NEWS
Mr McKechnie of the RFS warned people across NSW to "prepare now" for the upcoming fire season which will be hotter and drier than last year.
"Now's the time to prepare. We are doing everything we can, including hazard reduction and preparation works, but we also need the community to prepare," he said.
"Landholders need to be clearing their fire breaks, homeowners need to be preparing around their home and everyone needs to sit down with their family now and know what to do when the fire threatens - sit down now and do a bushfire survival plan."
Reading this on mobile web? Download our news app here. It's faster, easier to read and we'll send you alerts for breaking news as it happens.