In an Australian first, Ballarat’s helicopter firefighting crews have completed night aerial water bombing at the huge Rosedale bushfire.
The successful operations follow training conducted in November, after legislation was changed.
Helicopters from Ballarat and Mangalore were deployed on Friday.
The 12,000 hectare fire is burning six kilometres south of Rosedale, and threatens small towns like Willung
260 firefighters, 48 trucks, and 11 aircraft were on the 70 kilometre fire front last night, improving control fires.
Night fire suppression operations trial operational lead Wayne Rigg said the aerial crews had made a huge difference.
“The last two years has come to this point, with a lot of hard work from a lot of people in a great team to develop systems and processes that have held up very well in the first deployment this week at the Rosedale fire,” he said.
“We’ve got the ability to extend our daytime firefighting with aerial assets into the night, and even now, from what we’ve been seeing, it’s providing an enormous benefit.
“The pilots with night vision goggles, that technology is a game changer, because in the day time, with the smoke, and looking at what’s going on, it’s sometimes difficult to find exactly where the target is.
“The goggles intensify light, and the fire is a light source.”
Difficult wind conditions have caused flareups since Friday, with the wind changing direction to an easterly yesterday.
The fire has burnt 2000 hectares of pine plantation, but no lives or property has been lost.
The arson squad is investigating the cause of the fire.
While the fire is in the same region as the Esso Longford gas plants and the Loy Yang coal plant, neither are under threat, nor is the Fulham Correctional Centre.
The Princes Highway remains open, but some roads are closed, including the Rosedale-Longford Road and around Willung.
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