The past two weeks have seen Australia's bushfires reach unprecedented proportions, prompting the government to mobilise significant ADF resources to support evacuation efforts and emergency services under Operation Bushfire Assist 2019-2020.
HMAS Adelaide arrived off the coast of Eden, NSW last night to begin relief and evacuation operations. The ship is carrying 300 tons of supplies.
The town is threatened by the Border Fire, with those not yet evacuated to Bega set to receive assistance from the RAN. The current advice for people in Eden is to monitor conditions and be prepared to act.
Meanwhile, HMAS Choules has disembarked evacuees rescued from the northern Victorian town of Mallacoota to Westernport after a 20 hour journey, including 1117 people, 135 dogs, four cats, a bird and a rabbit. The ship then restocked for the journey back to Mallacoota.
Defence helicopters are being used to conduct evacuations and engineering, transport and logistics efforts are also underway. RAAF C-130Js, KC-30As and C-17As are being used to move firefighters up and down the coast, bases from Brisbane to Adelaide have been opened to evacuees, and Defence is currently coordinating support from the New Zealand Defence Force and the Singapore Armed Forces.
The bushfires have prompted the first compulsory call-up of reservists in Australian history, drawing on 4th, 5th, 9th and 17th brigades to 'increase the Defence footprint' in affected areas.
The historic call-up reportedly took the RFS by surprise, with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons learning the news through media reports. In a statement to Nine's Today Show, Fitzsimmons said he then spent Saturday working with military liaison officers to integrate the resources into on-going efforts, although those officers were also not informed of the plan.
More on the bushfires will be available in our first edition of Defence Week on January 16.