Perth based fire-fighting Squirrel helicopters dropped their 15,000th load of water during the summer bush fire season.
The AS350 B3 Squirrels have been operated by HNZ Australia out of Perth Airport since 2005. Patrolling a 120km radius around the WA capital, the four Helitacs work in conjunction with fixed-wing water bombers, with the more manoeuvrable helicopters focusing on the borders between rural and urban land while the planes focus on more rural areas.
Under the Emergency Services Act, the Helitacs are authorised to draw water from any suitable source and can take in 1000 litres in 45 seconds while hovering. During fires, HNZ says it’s not uncommon for each Squirrel to deliver a load of water every three minutes.
“Having the four machines available in the metropolitan area, gives fantastic coverage on local fires where multiple repetitive drops consistently save property”, HNZ Australia spokesman Brenton Davis said. “The ability to support a dozer by cooling the fire-line, or laying down a wet-line for ground crews to work from, is invaluable in the fire-fight. Plus the ability to view and plan the attack from above is always well appreciated and utilised.”
The 15,000th water drop came while fighting a fire in Mossman Park in February.