Fire fighting efforts on Fraser Island received a boost with the arrival this morning of the large air tanker (LAT) ‘Marie Bashir’ at Bundaberg Airport.
Named after the first woman Governor of New South Wales, ‘Marie Bashir’ is a Boeing 737 based in Richmond, NSW, and is part of the NSW Rural Fire Service’s firebombing fleet.
The LAT is now on loan to Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) to bolster the aerial firefighting fleet including the Bundaberg-based LAT ‘Q400’ which is leased off Conair.
The bushfires, which were sparked by an illegal campfire on the island on 14 October, have destroyed more than 80,000 hectares of the island and now threaten the township of Happy Valley on the island’s eastern shore.
Happy Valley residents were told to leave immediately by fire authorities on Sunday as fire fronts converged on the town.
Speaking on Sunday, Queensland Minister for Fire and Emergency Services Mark Ryan said the arrival of ‘Marie Bashir’ would help firefighting efforts on the world’s largest sand island.
“There is a suite of aircraft in the fleet, based around Australia, which can be deployed to assist with bushfire efforts,” Mr Ryan said.
“It is good to hear that the New South Wales large air tanker will be arriving in Queensland (today) to assist with firefighting efforts in Queensland.”
With the aerial assault on the fire having resumed at first light this morning, the arrival of ‘Marie Bashir’ was also welcomed by QFES Commissioner Greg Leach.
“We’ll use that (today) to put gel lines of retardant between the lead of the fire and the outskirts of the Happy Valley settlement to try to prevent the fire from impacting on the town,” Commissioner Leach said on Sunday.
More than 1.3 million litres of water was dropped on the fire on Sunday, and ‘Marie Bashir’, with its capacity to hold more than 15,000 litres of water or suppressant on each flight, will significantly boost the firefighting effort.
Fast facts about the ‘Marie Bashir’ Boeing 737 LAT:
- Primary role: firebombing
- Two pilot crew
- 15,142 litre retardant capacity
- RADS-XXL/2 constant flow firebombing system
- Cruise speed (loaded) up to 850km/h
- 33m length, 31.2m wingspan
- Typical cruise altitude (loaded) 25,000 feet
- Typical runway required 1,950m
- Up to 61,700kg gross weight
- 2 x 9,100kg thrust CFM 56-3 turbo fan engines
- Jet-A1 fuel consumption up to 3,400 litres/hr
- 2+ fire agency radios, satellite tracking