New South Wales Rural Fire Service

New South Wales Rural Fire Service

Today the Service comprises over 2,100 volunteer rural fire brigades with a total membership of just over 70,000. In addition, salaried staff are employed to manage the day to day operations of the Service at Headquarters, regional offices and district fire control centres. The RFS is the lead agency for coordinated bush fire fighting and is also responsible for fires and related emergency incidents within Rural Fire Districts which cover more than 95% of the State. Fires and related emergency incidents include bush and grass fires, structure fires, transport fires and incidents, automatic fire alarms, etc.   The RFS also supports other agencies in emergency situations such as floods, storms and search and rescue situations.   A range of operational systems, resources and skills come together to ensure the RFS delivers an efficient, effective response to incidents within its operational responsibilities. Aviation Aircraft are one of most essential firefighting tools of the Rural Fire Service. About 100 aircraft are used each fire season. These include fixed wing agricultural aircraft, light and medium helicopters, AirCranes, medical aircraft and transport aircraft. Rotary and fixed wing aircraft support firefighting efforts by: waterbombing active fire dropping aerial incendiaries during backburning or hazard reduction operations performing reconnaissance flights air attack supervision conducting medical evacuations transporting firefighters.   Fixed wing aircraft used for reconnaissance may be equipped with sophisticated infrared and mapping equipment. Firebombing aircraft generally drop between 2,000 and 3,000 litres of water, which may be mixed with foam or fire retardant. Firebombing aircraft are not effective on their own or during extreme fire conditions. They must always be supported by ground crews. However, they can greatly assist firefighters in both limiting the fire area and speeding up fire suppression. Because of their versatility, helicopters are also widely used at fires. They are used in reconnaissance and air attack roles, for firebombing and the transport of personnel and key equipment around the fireground. Helicopters can carry buckets or tanks, which vary in capacity from 450 litres to 9,000 litres of water or fire suppressants. The RFS coordinates aircraft activity, but does not own aircraft itself. The aircraft are stationed at permanent and temporary air bases throughout the State. Some are on alert throughout the Bushfire Danger Period and others are called in during emergency situations. The Aviation Unit maintains contracts with approved aircraft operators. Aircraft used by the RFS: Fixed wing aircraft – bombers Fixed wing aircraft (light) reconnaissance/air attack Rotary aircraft – light helicopters Rotary aircraft – medium helicopters Rotary aircraft – heavy helicopters More information on these aircraft can be found in our Publications area Aviation Unit   The Aviation Unit coordinates the response of aircraft and associated services in support of fires and other emergencies. The Aviation Unit responds to requests for aviation support from incident management teams across NSW, determines priorities during major emergencies and provides logistic support for delivery of fuel, foam, retardant and specialist personnel. The Unit tasks and trains air and ground crews. They include air observers, air attack supervisors, aerial incendiary operators, airborne systems operators, aircraft officers, airbase managers and operations crews and air operations managers in incident management teams.