In April 2009, Australia's leading bushfire research organisation, Bushfire CRC Ltd, published another important report 'THE COST-EFFECTIVENESS OF AERIAL FIRE-FIGHTING IN AUSTRALIA'
by Gaminda Ganewatta & John Handmer, via the Centre for Risk and Community Safety, RMIT University in Melbourne.
The report has examined the cost effectiveness of aerial fire suppression in Australia and has made the following important and most relevant findings, which cannot be ignored by fire authorities and their politically disposed masters:
1. "The use of ground resources with initial aerial support is the most economically efficient approach to fire suppression!"
2. "Aircraft are economically efficient where they are able to reach and knock down a fire well before the ground crew arrives!"
3. "Rapid deployment of aerial suppression resources is important, especially in remote or otherwise inaccessible terrain!"
4. "The sole use of aircraft is economically justified in the event of other suppression methods being unable to reach the fire event quickly!"
5. "Critical factors are speed of deployment and turnaround time!"
6. "Aircraft save more damage than they cost to operate, noting that high volume helicopters and fixed wing aircraft are economically more efficient in fire suppression, compared to small helicopters and large air tankers. Air tankers are less manoeuvrable compared to helicopters, thus their use in initial attack is not practical, unless used solely for large events!"
So while Brumby's Royal Commission is working towards finalising its investigation into the Victorian Bushfires, this presents an opportunity for Fire Management to harness such relevant bushfire research. Before next bushfire risk season key relevant bushfire research like this can be evaluated and the costs, budgets and business cases formulated to propose application to fire management operations.
But frankly can one lead a politicised brumby to water?
The following references provide useful illustrations and real life accounts of practical aerial fire fighting resource options out there (print them off and have a darn good read):
[Licensed Commercial Helicopter Pilot]