Technology gives firefighters an edge in heated battle

New technology that could ultimately protect Canberra residents from losing their lives or homes to bushfires has successfully spotted burning trees from more than 30 kilometres away.


earlier this bushfire season to be its eye in the sky, an initiative worthy of praise.

The chopper provides real-time information for firefighters during active blazes by live-streaming video and intelligence to agency headquarters and incident management teams on the ground.

It is also used to check whether lightning strikes have ignited fires, keep track of remote area firefighting teams as they're winched into the bush by other helicopters, and to monitor fires after they have been suppressed.

The helicopter has been flown regularly, particularly after the severe lightning activity Canberra experienced over the past few weeks.

Lightning is one of the most common natural causes of fire and if the strikes that have sparked fires can be picked up early, it goes without saying that they’re much easier to put out.

ACT Rural Fire Service operations manager Rohan Scott told reporter Blake Foden that a number of fires were detected early after the recent spate of lightning strikes.

"Previously, we would have waited until the next day and the fire towers would have picked them up as the fire was increasing [in size], but we were able to put resources on them that night and that made the size of the fires much smaller,” he said.

"If we'd waited until the day, they could have been a bigger size and harder to suppress, so the early detection we get with this helicopter is paramount and worth its weight in gold."

Meanwhile, in Tasmania, lightning has resulted in the razing of more than 20,000 hectares of land in the southwest of the state from the Gell River blaze, which continues to burn.

On January 15, a lightning band passed over the island state resulting in more than 2000 strikes. That led to an additional more than 60 bushfires, many of which also continue to burn in inaccessible locations. Tasmania Fire Service last week reported the fires had burnt 205,000 hectares.  Thankfully, no deaths have been reported.

The fires in Tasmania come as Victoria - and the rest of Australia - marks the 10-year anniversary of the Black Saturday firestorm that killed 180 people on February 7, 2009 and in the days that followed.

Remembering the enormous sorrow and loss that remained, and considering the growing threat of fire and what Australia could experience in the future, Canberrans can rest assured knowing that this new technology, their eye in the sky, can hopefully prevent a fire from catching hold and threatening lives and homes in the bush capital.