The ACT gets its own aerial water bomber station

Firefighting aircraft will be able to respond more quickly to fires in the Canberra region thanks to a new, dedicated aerial firefighting station at Canberra Airport.

Previously NSW Rural Fire Service's Large Air Tankers fighting fires in the Canberra region would have to fly back to Richmond in Sydney's outer north-west to restock on firefighting chemicals.

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron and ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Dominic Lane stand in front of the the fire retardant filing station at ACT's first fire bombing airbase. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Canberra Airport managing director Stephen Byron and ACT Emergency Services Agency commissioner Dominic Lane stand in front of the the fire retardant filing station at ACT's first fire bombing airbase. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

ESA commissioner Dominic Lane was joined by NSW Rural Fire Service assistant commissioner Jason Heffernan, Canberra Airport chief executive Stephen Byron and ACT emergency services minister Mick Gentleman to launch the new base on Monday.

Mr Lane said the station wouldn't be on call year round, but the effects of climate change would prolong the bushfire season.

"History has changed and as we go into the longer summer with extended fire danger periods we can expect this base to be stood up for longer periods as well," Mr Lane said.

Now the specialised station based at Canberra Airport will allow air tankers to get back to fighting fires in the local region quicker.

A water bombing airplane is seen dropping fire retardant at the Pierces Creek fire near Canberra in November. Photo: AAP

A water bombing airplane is seen dropping fire retardant at the Pierces Creek fire near Canberra in November. Photo: AAP

The ACT government will pay NSW government for use of the air tanker based at the airport with Canberra staff to undergo training to operate the base.

During high fire danger days the base will house the NSW Rural Fire Service's RJ-85 aircraft which can carry about 12,000 litres of flame retardant, but the base will also be able to restock the rural service's 737 and Hercules air tankers.

But Mr Lane said the base would also allow water bombers to help firefighters out in the Riverina or even as far south as Gippsland in Victoria.

"We have some 60,000 litres of retardant on stock ready to refill these important aircraft that, of course, we saw do so much work during the Pierces Creek fire," Mr Gentleman said.

Several types of firefighting aircraft tackled the Pierces Creek Fire in November. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Several types of firefighting aircraft tackled the Pierces Creek Fire in November. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

He said ACT firefighters had learned from the Pierces Creek what the advantages would be of having a closer refuelling and restocking station for firefighting aircraft.

The aircraft was not present for its own launch, having travelled to Queensland with 35 ACT volunteer firefighters to help locals battle over 100 blazes that continue to burn across the state.

Mr Lane said the resources they had sent were minuscule and would not affect Canberra's ability to combat a blaze in the meantime, with NSW firefighters also on call if a bushfire broke out in the region.

He said sending newer firefighters interstate helped them gain experience before they returned home.

Canberra Airport boss Stephen Byron said his was the only curfew-free airport between Melbourne and Brisbane so would be a major capability to regional firefighters.

"We've set up this facility so it can operate, uninterrupted, priority one so it can safeguard the community," Mr Byron said.