In the hills behind Perth, the capital city of Western Australia, easterly winds are screaming in from the hot desert and temperatures are soaring. An arsonist has struck, deliberately lighting two fires in the bush. The flames have turned into an inferno and the fire is out of control. It is threatening Mundaring Weir, a water treatment plant, the nearby settlement of Pickering Brook, and even the Parks and Wildlife Service Mundaring District Headquarters.
The fastest response to a bushfire is from the air. Nick Long from Dunn Aviation pilots one of eight fixed-wing water bombers, part of the aerial fleet that works in conjunction with the ground crews. The bombers operate a system called RAID – rapid aggressive initial deployment.
Fire Officer Jordan Cantelo leads a team of nine trucks and two bulldozers on the northern flank of the fire and we join bushfire fighter Shane Popperwell in the truck behind the dozers as they battle to control the blazing monster. Adam Edwards follows behind dealing with dangerous hop-overs as the fire jumps containment lines. Air assets keep on the offensive. Helicopter tankers and Skycranes attack the flames and fixed-wing bombers assault the blaze from the air. The combination of ground and air assault is making headway. But things suddenly change. The wind picks up.
Nick Long is continually bombing from the air and in support of the ground crews, who are having a difficult time holding the fire behind the track they are cutting. The wind pushes the fire towards the firebreak track and embers start to jump the line and ignite on the other side. These are called hop-overs and they’re serious. If one gets away, they’ll have a whole new fire front on their hands.
Can the forces win the battle against the blazing enemy before it’s too late?
‘Bushfire Wars’ is suitable for Years 3–9 and can be linked to the following subject areas within the Australian National Curriculum:
‘Bushfire Wars‘ will be available to download for free.