Defence wraps up bushfire operation

By Shannon Jenkins

March 26, 2020

Operation Bushfire Assist. Leading Aircraftman Geoffrey Petrie, of No 22 Squadron, helps load an Air Force truck at the Hawkesbury Council Operations Depot in Wilberforce. Photo: Corporal David Said

Defence personnel have officially finished supporting state and local authorities with bushfire emergency and recovery tasks.

Operation Bushfire Assist formally ceased on March 26, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds.

Defence has been providing wide-ranging support as part of the national response to the recent bushfire crisis since early September 2019. Operation Bushfire Assist commenced on December 31 to support state fire and emergency services across New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. It later extended support to the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania.

Morrison said he “couldn’t be prouder” of the way personnel helped emergency services throughout the crisis.

“The permanent and part-time Australian Defence Force members provided essential support to our emergency services across Australia. This remarkable hard work has made a significant difference to the immediate emergency response and the longer-term recovery which Defence will continue to support,” he said on Thursday.

During the operation, Defence cleared more than 4850km of roads, over 1285km of fences, and more than 240km of fire breaks. It also provided nearly 10 million litres of drinking water to Kangaroo Island and Bega, and more than 77,000 meals to emergency services personnel and evacuees.

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More than 6500 ADF members provided support as part of emergency relief, response and recovery operations, including 3000 Reserve forces.

It was the largest mobilisation of the ADF for domestic disaster relief in Australia’s history, according to Reynolds.

“I am so proud of the service our permanent and part-time ADF members provided as part of this response,” she said.

“I am also very grateful for the support provided by the many additional international defence force partners from Canada, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, and the United States. Their support demonstrates the strength of our relationships.

“Finally, I acknowledge and thank the families and employers of our Reservists for their understanding and support that has made this response possible.”

Morrison and Reynolds said Defence would continue to provide support to non-emergency recovery operations.

Earlier this week Reynolds announced that reconnaissance and planning support teams had been placed in the Victorian, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australian state coordination centres, as part of the national response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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