A key weapon in Queensland’s bushfire-fighting arsenal will now be based in Australia year round after the Palaszczuk Government struck a four-year deal to station a Large Air Tanker in the state.
Under previous arrangements the Large Air Tanker, which provides fire suppression and containment capabilities, was only in Australia for the duration of the Queensland bushfire season, which typically runs for approximately three months.
Announcing the new deal, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk today said the LAT – a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT – would return to Queensland in the coming months and remain in Australia as part of a co-sharing arrangement with Victoria.
“The LAT is an important tool when it comes to fighting bushfires in Queensland,” the Premier said.
“Before COVID, bushfires wrought havoc throughout many regions across our state, costing businesses and threatening homes.
“The LAT was used a number of times with great effect last bushfire season.
“We want to ensure our firies are able to call on the LAT as soon as it’s required – this deal locks in the future of this aerial asset in Queensland.”
Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said the LAT would be based at Bundaberg for Queensland’s bushfire seasons between 2021 and 2024, starting from September each year.
It will then be sent to Victoria during its bushfire season, which traditionally occurs when Queensland is experiencing storms and cyclones. The tanker will remain in Victoria between bushfire seasons.
Mr Ryan said the move was part of the Government’s commitment to spend $15 million over five years financing a LAT to support Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES)’ bushfire response operations.
“The Queensland Government understands the important role aircraft play in helping QFES combat bushfires, which is why it made the decision in 2019 to deliver a LAT for the State,” Mr Ryan said.
“The co-sharing arrangement with Victoria is an evolution of this commitment and will ensure the LAT is at Queensland’s disposal for the at least next four bushfire seasons.
“This will deliver certainty and efficiencies because QFES will no longer need to contract a LAT on a season-by-season arrangement.”
Mr Ryan said the LAT would complement the substantial aerial firefighting fleet, which included a combination of planes and helicopters employed on an on-call basis.
“It’s important to note that the LAT will be complemented by all of the aircraft that form Australia’s national aerial fire-fighting fleet, that includes another LAT located in New South Wales.
“Queensland asks a lot of our firefighters when bushfires strike, so it is only right they have the resources to respond effectively.
“I am proud to say the Queensland Government is stepping forward to support them with the provision of a LAT based in Queensland for the next four bushfire seasons.”
Victorian Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio said the LAT gave a great advantage to firefighters.
“This aircraft represents a significant advantage for firefighting in Victoria, as it can be operated at smaller regional airports as it requires less room for take-off and landing.”
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Greg welcomed the news the LAT would be available until the end of the 2024 bushfire season.
“This assurance will significantly help QFES’ bushfire preparation and response efforts,” Mr Leach said.
“As with last year the LAT and its crew will be based at Bundaberg Airport.
“Bundaberg is ideally located to ensure the LAT can respond effectively along the coastline and inland when called upon.
“From its base in Bundaberg, it can reach either Proserpine in the north, the Queensland-New South Wales border in the south or Tambo in the west within one hour.”
Mr Leach said the LAT clearly demonstrated its ability to enhance QFES’ bushfire response capabilities when deployed during the 2020 bushfire season.
“The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400AT delivered 40 drops to help establish and maintain containment lines last season, with some of these instrumental in halting the progress of fires,” he said.
“It will once again be a critical part of QFES’ aerial firefighting fleet, which includes access to more than 150 call-when-needed planes and helicopters.
“Along with our dedicated personnel and purpose-built equipment, the aerial fleet puts us in a great position as we gear up for the 2021 bushfire season.”
Facts about the LAT: