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November 7, 2013
AIR Force personnel from
RAAF Bases Williamtown and
Richmond have supported their
local communities during recent
bushfires in NSW.
The bases supported firefight-
ing aircraft and provided logistics
support for the Rural Fire Services
(RFS) while Air Force firefighters
worked side-by-side with their
emergency services counterparts.
RAAF Base Glenbrook also
provided important assistance for
the RFS during the fires that were
the worst in NSW since the 1960s.
Williamtown personnel swung
into action after the RFS issued an
emergency evacuation warning by
text message at 11am on
Commanding Officer No. 26
Squadron and Air Base Executive
Officer WGCDR Peter Cluff said
the situation was dire because the
blaze near Williamtown was like a
mini firestorm that raced 500m in
only three minutes.
"We provided support by
opening our runway to firefight-
ing aircraft, while firemen from
26SQN joined the RFS to combat
blazes that threatened to engulf
Newcastle Airport and a Defence
facility at Duck Hole Hill,"
WGCDR Cluff said.
He said 26SQN firefighters
responded in six vehicles to the
fires surrounding Williamtown
and Newcastle Airport.
"The blaze threatened to
overrun Newcastle Airport and
the BAE Systems maintenance
hangar," he said.
"It looked very dicey for
Newcastle Airport but, together
with the RFS, the BAE hangar
and terminal were saved.
"Intense fires surrounded the
majority of the base, and firefight-
ers were constantly allocating
resources back and forth as fires
erupted at different locations on
Although the Newcastle
Airport terminal was closed, Air
Traffic Controllers from No. 44
Wing remained on duty to provide
air traffic control services to sup-
port the water-bombing helicop-
ters.Williamtown personnel were
also poised to evacuate 300 staff
and passengers at Newcastle
Airport but this was facilitated by
Just as firefighters gained the
upper hand at Newcastle Airport
and the surrounding area, a blaze
at Duck Hole Hill threatened to
engulf a Defence facility.
WGCDR Cluff said 26SQN
firefighters in two fire trucks,
as well as two RFS fire trucks,
protected a number of Defence
buildings and equipment under
extremely intense conditions.
"They got trapped on the hill
and had to fight the fire from
within the facility," he said.
"Although they were iso-
lated for a period of time, they
remained calm and through their
training were able to protect
buildings with only minimal dam-
As Air Force News went to print, RAAF
personnel were preparing to provide
additional support to local communi-
ties, following the NSW Government's
acceptance of Defence's offer to sup-
port the recovery effort.
DURING the bushfire crisis, RAAF
Base Richmond provided an airbase
for the Rural Fire Service (RFS) from
which to operate their firefighting
As of October 28, the RFS con-
tinued to operate seven fixed wing
and seven rotary wing aircraft from
Richmond, which also provided
accommodation and catering support
for up to 40 RFS crew.
Richmond supported RFS aerial
water-bombing operations west of
Sydney, while No. 22 Squadron
firefighters assisted with the task of
uploading fire retardant to RFS aircraft.
Commanding Officer 22SQN and
Air Base Executive Officer WGCDR Ron
Tilley said 22SQN firefighters and refu-
ellers, as well as No. 453 Squadron
Air Traffic Controllers and Defence
Support and Reform Group (DSRG)
contractors, worked tirelessly to sup-
port RFS operations on the base.
"Firefighters and refuellers from
22SQN provided important assistance
with the filling and refuelling of the
RFS aircraft," WGCDR Tilley said.
WGCDR Tilley said the RFS crew
deserved special praise, because they
worked non-stop during daylight hours
in very difficult conditions, even after
losing a fellow pilot in an accident in
the Southern Highlands.
He said throughout the fire, the
Air Base Command Post, operated by
22SQN, managed all requests for base
"22SQN also provided the Base
Aviation Safety Adviser as the Air
Liaison Officer for the RFS flying
operations at the base, while 453SQN
Detachment Richmond provided air
traffic control services for the RFS
aircraft," he said.
Serco Sodexo Defence Services,
the DSRG Garrison Support Services
contractor, also provided accommoda-
tion and catering support to the RFS,
while No. 1 Combat Communications
Squadron offered the use of their
Other flying units at Richmond also
provided minor maintenance support
to the RFS.
Lending a hand at Richmond
HELP AT THE READY: Fires rage behind the 2SQN flightline
and hangar at RAAF Base Williamtown; inset top left, members
from RAAF Base Richmond's Air Movements Section unload
the baggage of Queensland Rural Fire Service firefighters flown
in to assist with bushfire fighting efforts in the Blue Mountains;
inset right, smoke hovers over a 2SQN Wedgetail at Williamtown;
inset bottom left, firefighters from Richmond's 22SQN help NSW
firefighters refill their aircraft with fire retardant.
Photos: SGT Shane Gidall, LAC David Said,
SGT Richard Lindeman and CPL Amanda Campbell
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