The effort against the Yankees Gap Fire burning in the Bega Valley for the last 34 days has seen a spectacular escalation with a large air tanker adding muscle and confidence.
The tanker, known as ‘Boomer’ carries 11,000 litres of water or fire retardant and made seven runs over Yankees Gap yesterday (September 16). It is back in action today, returning to Richmond RAAF Base between each dump to fill up and return; a 40 minute flight each way after 20 minutes on the ground.
The tanker is working in partnership with the ‘Fireboss’ a fixed-wing plane which uses amphibious floats to scoop up 3000 litres of water in 12 to 15 seconds, before returning to the front line to unleash its load.
One of the aircraft that supported the fire-fighters on the ground at the Big Hill fire this week is the Air Tractor AT 802, also know as the "Fire Boss". What it lacks in carring capacity compared to the VLAT it makes up for in speed and agility.Equipped with amphibious floats, the Air Tractor’s AT-802 “Fire Boss” adds yet another dimension of capability for fire fighters. It can scoop 3000 litres of water in 12-15 seconds and be off the water and on its way again to the front lines in as few as 20-30 seconds.With the ability to work as a land-based aircraft or a skimmer, the “Fire Boss” can drop an initial load of retardant then remain close to the fire by scooping water from a nearby lake or river.#NSWRFS
Posted by NSW Rural Fire Service – Mid Coast District on Saturday, 9 December 2017
Four water-bombing helicopters also remain in play, a sight and sound that has become familiar to residents between the fire ground and the refueling base at the Old Bega Racecourse.
The water and retardant drops today (September 17) are important containment options ahead of tricky weather conditions late Tuesday and into Wednesday.
Four kilometres of back-burning operations are also being developed with residents warned to expect large amounts of smoke.
Crews on the ground are continuing to blacken out the edges of the fire which has so far burnt out close to 20,000 hectares. Those same men and women, which number around 110, are also taking care of any hot spots and working in conjunction with aircraft.
Six bulldozers are working on various control lines in and around the fire ground.
The new air resources coincide with confirmation that one home was destroyed during Saturday’s flashpoint, which brings the total to four during the whole emergency. Nine outbuildings were also lost at the weekend as high temperatures and winds in excess of 100km/hr stirred the fire and threatened Bemboka, Coopers Gully, Numbugga, and Brogo.
Thankfully no human lives have been lost but increasingly people are speaking of the emotional and physical toll this protracted and constant state of alertness is having.
“I’m concerned for the impact this is having on peoples mental well being. It is going to be a long summer,” Jan Harris writes on About Regional Facebook.
Nicky Harris says, “I find it quite draining emotionally.”
Anna Leamon writes, “You’re right Jan and Nicki. My concern already is complacency as it drags on, my own complacency, not others or the services.”
Warn out volunteer firefighters are also an increasing sight, these women and men of such ticker give so much of their time but many are also managing (or not!) paid employment and all the usual juggling balls of life.
Tomorrow (September 18) marks six months since 65 homes were lost just 50km east of Yankees Gap.
The people of Reedy Swamp, Vimy Ridge, and Tathra are at various stages in their grief and recovery; its an example that inspires and adds to the resilience of those currently living in the midst of active bushfire, but its a reality and history that suggests no one can relax – exhausting.