A huge new water-bombing air tanker has arrived in Canberra to be used by the ACT Emergency Services Agency to fight fires.
The DC-10 Air Tanker was flown from Alabama in the United States and landed on the same day that the American C-130 Hercules air tanker crashed fighting the Adaminaby Complex fire in the Snowy Mountains. The three crew members died.
"In the last week, the storage capacity has been increased to support very large air tankers like the DC-10," ACT Emergency Services minister Mick Gentleman said. The federal government paid for the extra tanks and pumps.
The new arrival can carry 35,600 litres of firefighting material, either water or as a retardant chemical to stop the spread of fire.
The hire of the new tanker is thought to cost about $1 million for the 50 days of the leasing contract. This contract may be extended if the bushfire season goes on longer than anticipated.
It's deployed to the ACT Emergency Services Agency, though it can be used in New South Wales, Victoria or elsewhere in Australia if the need arises.
The $1 million is covered by the federal government and comes from the extra $20 million announced by prime minister Scott Morrison on January 4.
"This aircraft provides an excellent capability to the ACT ESA to support bushfire operations in Canberra and interstate in New South Wales," said Stuart Ellis, the chief executive of the National Council for Fire and Emergency Services which coordinates the hire of firefighting aircraft for the states and territories.
The tanker can hold more than 10 times the amount of water that a ground tanker can carry, so it is particularly effective in laying long containment lines, Mr Ellis told The Canberra Times.
With one run, for example, it can drop a line of retardant 100 metres wide and 1.6 kilometres long.
Smaller aircraft can't lay down the water or retardant with the same accuracy because they would need an exact drop each time to get a continuous line. "It would take five times as many smaller aircraft dropping perfectly one after the other to get the same effect," Mr Ellis said.
The C-130 which crashed was one of two deployed to Australia from the United States. Mr Ellis said that the other one had been grounded until it can be established that no aircraft fault caused the crash. The crew of the second C-130 had also been given a break because of the emotional pain of their colleagues' deaths.