Forestry a crucial part of huge fire-fighting effort

A Squirrel helicopter is under contract for the season to help with firefighting in Tumut. Pictured are Kerryanne Reiners, Louise Bourke, Nick Rudder, Shane Swanson and Dean Anderson.

One-hundred Forestry firefighters are on the ground in the Tumut area, with roles ranging from frontline firefighting to incident management and control, to logistics such as meals, transport and accommodation for firefighters.

Working alongside the RFS, National Parks & Wildlife Service and NSW Fire and Rescue, Forestry Corporation said while protecting plantations is important, their priority at this time remains to protect people and communities.

Manager for the Snowy Region for Forestry Corporation of NSW Dean Anderson said forests had brought in crews from the north coast and central west and have contracted firefighting crews rotating from New Zealand and interstate to help.

“Forestry Corporation staff are working through the incident management teams right down to the fire-ground to attack the fire and manage its spread,” he said.

With every 24-hour cycle, the corporation has around 70 people on the ground and a further 20 in incident management teams, firerooms resourcing and logistics and a small group resting to take over and give their colleagues a break.

 “Forestry Corporation firefighters are specialists in large forest fires and we have diverted heavy machinery such as bulldozers from site preparation operations to help build containment lines and keep fires in check,” Mr Anderson said.

“This year we have also contracted three helicopters over the fire season to be ready to help fight fires in our plantations and at least one of these has been deployed around Tumut.

As well as actively fighting fires, Mr Anderson said further staff have been tasked with patrolling forests and manning fire towers to watch for new ignitions from lightning strikes and ensuring areas are safe.

Harvesting contractors have also been involved in clearing trees from roads to support the recovery.

“Fire management and preparedness is a priority throughout the year and we carry out hazard reduction burning each year planned through the RFS Bushfire Management Committees to reduce fuel in forests, with a focus on strategic areas around communities and assets,” Mr Anderson said.

“In the lead up to the fire season, we put staff through fire camps to refresh and update their skills; maintain our network of fire trails and roads which are important for access should a fire break out; and check all our equipment is ready and for purpose, including our network of fire towers used for spotting fires that may break out,” he said.

Mr Anderson thanked the public for staying clear of fire devastated areas. “We would like to thank everyone for staying out of closed forests and remind the community that recently burnt areas are extremely dangerous and forests in the local area will remain closed for the foreseeable future,” he said.