A firefighting helicopter picks up water from a prawn farm near Deepwater during last week’s bushfire emergency. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian
A firefighting helicopter picks up water from a prawn farm near Deepwater during last week’s bushfire emergency. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen/The Australian

Canberra’s air support for bushfire crisis

SUPER water bombers will be deployed to Queensland to put out fires quicker under a $26 million Morrison ­Government plan that will also help overhaul the almost 60-year-old National Fire Danger Rating System.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will today announce a multi-pronged package firstly focused on fighting fires raging throughout Queensland.

About $11 million will be spent leasing large, faster, fixed-wing airtankers from interstate.

The money will help protect Queensland well into next year's fire season.

The airtankers are mobile and can be quickly deployed across the country, in multiple states in one day. They are bigger than existing fixed-wing and rotary wing firefighting aircraft in use.

Queensland's fire season - from October to February - is becoming longer, with the latest fire storm ravaging the state for almost a week.

Mr Morrison said last night that Queenslanders were showing their fighting spirit.

"This funding will boost support to communities ... with more aerial capabilities to fight bushfires, new projects to support new emergency communication and fire prediction research," he said.

"Importantly we will increase the number of aerial tankers which can respond to bushfires across Australia."

Under the plan, the Commonwealth will lead a national approach to the deployments of the aircraft to ensure there is a co-ordinated national response.

Mr Morrison will also unveil new measures that will help communities and fire authorities mitigate risk, plus ensure better systems are in place to alert residents of looming fire danger.

Almost $6 million will be spent on developing a new National Fire Danger Rating System, which predicts fires.

The system is based on ­research from the 1960s and does not take in the latest ­ science.

It will also consider more data, vegetation types, national fuel load and weather conditions.

It will help firefighters better forecast fire weather and get that information to communities sooner.

Queensland will share in a $5 million national bushfire fund.

About $2 million will extend the National Emergency Alert SMS system until 2020, but another $750,000 will be spent on ensuring the most up-to-date technology is available.

People at risk can receive an automated landline warning or text message alerting them of fire danger, but sometimes the messages come too late or not at all.

On top of that, $1.5 million will expand a public safety mobile broadband trial to help police, fire, ambulance and other emergency ­services ensure resources are deployment when needed.



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