The ADF's contribution to firefighting efforts continued over the weekend, with soldiers conducting route clearance, recovering helicopters and helping construct firebreaks in the Snowy Mountains.
On Saturday in Victoria, ADF support teams visited the communities of Myrtleford, Merriang, Nug Nug, Clifton Creek, Fairhope, Lakes Entrance, Sarsfield, Upper Tambo, Swift Creek, Tiltandra, Cudgewa, Berringama, and Lucyvale to co-ordinate urgent community needs. Defence also provided support to the Victorian Police conducting evacuations in Harrietville, an Army reconnaissance team in Bushmasters continued route clearance and assessment between Orbost and Mallacoota, and HMAS Choules transferred supplies to Mallacoota alongside CH-47 helicopters carrying unleaded petrol.
On Sunday, more supplies arrived in Mallacoota and damage assessments were carried out in the region.
In NSW, a Navy clearance dive team and Army engineers assisted in the recovery of the downed civilian helicopter from the Ben Boyd Reservoir near Eden. The dive team played a key role in resurfacing the aircraft, allowing an ongoing investigation by civil aviation authorities.
A 70km long firebreak was also dug in the Bondo State Forest. The work is being undertaken by engineers from No. 65 Squadron, who provide Air Force’s airfield engineering capabilities, and Brisbane-based specialists from Army's 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment.
The firebreak is designed to protect the vital forests of commercial timber in the area. 35 per cent of local timber has been lost to the fires, with local employment heavily reliant on timber mills.
“We’re trying to make a cleared line about 40 metres wide,” Forestry Corporation supervisor Russell Wall said. “The aim is to protect the timber and prevent the fire moving north to Canberra.
“It’s fantastic to have the military here, because timing is paramount with these operations - the dozer line needs to be put in quick, otherwise the fire will breach it.
“To have these resources come in on top of our existing resources is invaluable, it could mean the difference between the line being successful or unsuccessful.”