The Rural Fire Service Regional Aviation Firefighting Airbase is taking shape

FULLY OPERATIONAL: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall with RFS superintendent Steve Mepham at the Regional Firefighting Airbase.
FULLY OPERATIONAL: Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall with RFS superintendent Steve Mepham at the Regional Firefighting Airbase.

AS Rural Fire Services wind down from the bushfire season, there’s an exciting development catching fire out at the airport.

The Regional Aviation Firefighting Airbase is taking shape, with a new 250,000 litre water tank and purpose built airbase.

Armidale RFS superintendent Steve Mepham said the upgrade would mean the teams would be well-equipped to handle the bushfire season.

“We used to have to turn the water off to south Armidale so we could get enough to load our planes,” he said.

Each plane takes 3500 litres every time it takes off, and refuels every seven minutes in a significant fire.

“We never ran out of water, but it was inconvenient for everyone else – there was an opportunity to get a big tank and create the buffer so that’s what we did,” Mr Mepham said.

The cost of the new tank was $40,000 including installation.

“With our concreting we’ve spent close to $100,000 this week,” Mr Mepham said.

“It’s made a big improvement, we had to make the area safe.”

Previously, volunteers and firefighters would work out of a small shipping container, with nowhere to sit down, no showers and portaloos being the only place to relieve themselves.

The airbase services the entire region and has flown as far as Walcha, Copeton Dam and Inverell.

“It’s going to make putting out fires a hell of a lot safer for crews on the ground, because if you’ve got a really strong head of fire you can’t be in front of it – if you can do that with aircraft it’s a lot quicker job and the guys can get home a lot quicker,” Mr Mepham said.

Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall visited the new $1 million site on Monday.

“Conditions during peak season are quite hot and incredibly busy and there’s been no place for the pilots or volunteers to rest,” he said.

“That’s why this project has been such a priority – to be able to offer our volunteers these basic comforts when they do get a break and to provide the best technical support for aerial firefighting operations in our region.”