The Alpine region of NSW is experiencing a joint-force effect as Army and Air Force engineers unite to build a section of a containment line in the Bando Forest outside of Tumut.
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. Already some 35 per cent of the timber has been lost to the fires, and the loss of the Bando Forest would be devastating for the economy of the Tumut area, where employment is heavily reliant on the mills across the region.
The soldiers, airwomen and airmen are working under the guidance of local forestry officials. For Forestry Corporation supervisor Russell Wall, the arrival of Defence personnel is a big boost to the chances of success.
“We’re trying to make a cleared line about 40 metres wide,” he 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.”
Personnel from 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment are also providing aid elsewhere around Tumut, with fodder being moved from Holbrook to Willigobung, and combat engineers are clearing fallen trees in Batlow.
An Army chaplain is also in the area, providing a source of comfort to those in need of care and a friendly chat to help unburden their feelings of loss.