Aerial fire crews tap into mill resource

Aerial fire crews tap into mill resource

Tests have shown that Black Hawk helicopters can suck 4000 litres of water from the secondary treatment ponds at the Kimberly-Clark Australia (KCA) Millicent Mill and use it to douse flames which may impact on the region’s forests.

As a result, the leading manufacturer has stepped in to assist the Country Fire Service (CFS) to combat fires in the fire danger season.

“As part of the CFS preparedness, open water sources situated in or near fire risk areas are assessed to determine if they’re suitable for firefighting aircraft to use, with a view to filling up and delivering water to fires in the shortest time possible,” KCA mill manager Adam Carpenter said.

Having such water sources available and approved for use can make a significant difference in keeping pine and dense scrub fires small, particularly in the pine forests around Mount Burr and Tantanoola.

Recognising the importance of the CFS the region, Kimberly-Clark Australia has made one of the largest water treatment ponds at its paper mill in Millicent available for firefighting, with a successful source assessment carried out last month

With low height operations involving considerable risk for firefighting crews, part of the assessment involved a helicopter conducting a test run at the treatment pond, with two hover fills and water bombing drops successfully carried out.

Mr Carpenter and previous mill managers have a long history dating back to 1960 of supporting the South Australian CFS, both with ready access to water for tankers and with a number of employees volunteering at local brigades.

“We understand how important CFS’s service is to the region, so when they asked if we could support aerial firefighting activities by providing access to a clean water source, we were quick to say yes,” Mr Carpenter said.

“The trials conducted have demonstrated the water from our treatment pond is safe for use and can be easily accessed by the CFS fleet, making it a great firefighting resource – and we’re proud to be playing a supporting role in the region’s firefighting efforts.”

CFS State Aviation Operations manager Nik Stanley said the opportunity to use the water treatment ponds at Kimberly-Clark’s Millicent Mill will provide a significant advantage in firefighting operations in the South East during the bushfire season.

“This level of cooperation between the CFS and local industry delivers significant benefit to the wider community,” he said.

The partnership comes as a new fleet of SA Country Fire Service aerial firefighting aircraft takes to the skies of South Australia’s Lower South East – with three Air Tractor AT-802 fixed-wing bombing aircraft, two Squirrel helicopters and one Blackhawk Helitak 515 helicopter now in service.

The Blackhawk Helitak 515 is new to the area and requires the ability to access suitable open water sources to hover fill.

The water treatment ponds at KCA were built in the late 1980s and have since been home for hundreds of ducks at any one time.

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