Updated at 9am

Providing direct support to the bushfire crisis is the Australian Defence Force's main effort. ADF support will continue for as long as required.

Personnel numbers 

  • About 3200 ADF personnel, including about 900 reservists, are supporting Operation Bushfire Assist.
  • About 97 international military personnel are supporting the bushfire response (see International support for more information).
  • The final four United States Air Force personnel at RAAF Base East Sale supporting airload operations departed for Guam on February 16. 
  • The Papua New Guinean Defence Force contingent (99 personnel) will depart Victoria on February 21.
  • The Republic of Fijian Military Force contingent (54 personnel) is scheduled to depart Victoria on February 25.

 

ADF support

  • Major General Justin ‘Jake’ Ellwood is the Emergency ADF National Support Coordinator, working in support of state and territory authorities.
  • A Rotary Wing Task Group (RWTG) has been operating since early January and has concluded operations with the Army MRH-90 redeploying to its home base in Townsville. ADF helicopters remain available at HMAS Albatross in Nowra should future support be required. 
  • Two Air Mobile Response Teams have redeployed from NSW to their home base in Adelaide to reconstitute as Army's high readiness contingency force. They have been replaced in NSW and the ACT by soldiers from the 7th Brigade.
  • ADF engineers and their equipment have shifted focus towards relief and recovery tasks in conjunction with state and local authorities.
  • Recovery efforts are focused on assisting state authorities to re-open roads, restore essential services, remediate fences for livestock control and deliver food, water and fodder to affected communities.

 

Victoria – Joint Task Force 646

Engineering support

  • Republic of Fiji Military Forces have concluded their support to Joint Task Force 646 in vicinity of Orbost. The contingent is conducting post-deployment administration at Puckapunyal and is scheduled to depart Australia on February 25.
  • Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) personnel have concluded their work as part of Joint Task Force 646 in vicinity of Omeo. PNGDF personnel have commenced their redeployment to Papua New Guinea. 
  • Military engineering effort remains committed to the recovery of community infrastructure, with a particular focus towards the re-establishment of road networks, power services and water infrastructure. Focus on these keys areas will support continued progress towards community normality. 

Community engagement

  • Joint Task Force members have supported Red Cross and local councils through the conduct of local welfare checks throughout the region. This has included providing advice on preparation for recently predicted severe wet weather over the coming days.
  • Republic of Fiji Military Forces recently supported a community engagement activity which saw 44 local students visit the Fiji basecamp at ‘Camp Davis’. Fijian military and camp personnel demonstrated engineering capabilities that have been used during the clearance and in broader recovery operations within the area.
  • A community event was conducted in Corryong on February 22 and was attended by the Commissioner of Emergency Management Victoria, Commissioner Andrew Crisp and Commander Joint Task Force 646. The event included a military band and highlighted the significant contributions made by locals, emergency personnel, the ADF and foreign partners in helping fire affected communities. 

Logistics and support

  • ADF personnel have supported the clearance of routes enabling access to Pearl Point and Miners Track and the water monitoring stations in those locations.
  • Teams continue to support the Rotary volunteer fencing group near Corryong to ensure the safety of both animals and drivers.
  • Teams have supported road clearances of lateral routes around the Yalmy and Combienbar Road. This included tree and ash removal from roads, drains and culverts. Culvert clearance was an important activity with heavy rain impacting across the state.
  • Teams have also supported road and track clearances in the Alpine Region, with reviewed focus on Surveyor’s Creek Track, Walker’s Track, McCormack Gap, Dunstan’s Road and Indi Track. 
  • The Joint Task Force has provided support to Parks Victoria in the vicinity of Cape Conran and Angler’s Rest with tree clearance, fence removal and repairs and the re-establishment of access routes.
  • Teams have provided catering, fuel supply and environmental health support at key areas at Bairnsdale, Orbost, Corryong and Omeo. This support will conclude over the coming days as local communities resume normal business operations. 
  • General duty personnel, assisted by military engineering equipment are supporting the clearance of Genoa Peak Road to enable access to the National Park.
  • The JTF continues to be postured to support Department of Human Services (DHS) recovery centre and emergency service personnel. Defence support to these agencies is reducing, as road access improves and communities resume normal business operations. 
  • Throughout the coastal Regions, the ADF has continued to clear routes to support state authorities’ ability to access communications towers, flood warning indicators and water quality monitoring stations. This is expected to conclude in the coming days as local communities resume normal business operations.
  • Clearance teams are providing support to Telstra in vicinity of Ada Divide and have concluded their support to Jemena Energy for gas line inspections.
  • Debris clearance of the Riley’s ride track near Corryong continues. This track supports The Man from Snowy River Festival. ADF support consists of clearing the track to ensure its safety for participants and spectators, with more than 20,000 people expected to attend. Recent clearance operations have focused on the northern section of the track. It is anticipated that JTF personnel will transition focus to the southern section of the track in the coming days as they continue to work with local agencies to complete this important task. Pending weather conditions, clearance of Riley’s Ride is anticipated to be complete by February 26.

Fodder and water

  • The requirement for ADF to deliver water and fodder has ceased due to road access now enabling contractor and supplier access to remote farms and communities.

Distribution of donated goods

  • ADF personnel handed over a catalogue of donated stores from RAAF Base East Sale to the Australian Red Cross and Salvation Army to enable distribution of items. ADF personnel are supporting the distribution of donated items throughout the state with the allocation of ground based transportation assets and general duty personnel.
  • Joint Task Force personnel have helped with sorting and palletising donated goods in Bairnsdale, Orbost and Omeo under the supervision of local councils.
  • Red Cross as the lead agency has coordinated with State charity organisations to identify and facilitate distribution of donated good to respective warehouses. The Joint Task Force continues to support the distribution of these goods to respective organisations.  

Reconnaissance, surveillance and rotary wing support

  • The Defence and Science Technology Group has deployed its Defence Experimentation Aerial Platform (DEAP) since February 5 to support aerial survey across the states. In Victoria, its low-level reconnaissance ability has provided fidelity on the status of key routes to allow follow-on response by ground engineering elements. With a reduction in the need for aerial survey, DEAP has now concluded operations. 
  • Defence has helped various Victorian Government Organisations with high definition satellite and aerial imagery to assist in damage assessment and facilitate planning. Previous imagery provided supported local and state authorities to enable damage assessments near Marlo.
  • Defence Unmanned Aerial Surveillance (UAS) has provided high-fidelity survey of the Benambra-Corryong Road to help in planning road clearance operations.  
  • Three Army MRH-90 helicopters at RAAF Base East Sale have concluded their support in Victoria and will return to their home base in Townsville today.   

Health and pastoral support

  • Air Force is operating a medical facility at RAAF Base East Sale. Pastoral care is being provided by both Army and Air Force chaplains to support Joint Task Force operations and communities. Each JTF is staffed with appropriately credentialed mental health professionals. 
  • Red Cross, supported by ADF personnel, will continue to conduct welfare checks throughout Cudgewa, Tintaldra, Towong, Colac Colac, Nariel Valley and Corryong.

Future planning

  • Planning continues for the conduct of a forces entertainment tour at Corryong which will be attended by Joint Task Force personnel and members of local communities. At this stage, the event is planned for February 22, although this remains subject to change as required by local authorities.  
  • JTF personnel currently deployed in the Alpine region have commenced planning to reposition personnel to the Coastal region. This is in response to increasing capacity of local authorities in the Alpine region and the quantity of remaining tasks in the Coastal region. The reposition of JTF personnel will better support the needs of the communities in the coastal region.
  • As recovery efforts increasingly transition to contracted companies, local organisations and state authorities; JTF headquarters personnel have commenced planning for the deliberate and progressive redeployment of the force. This plan will initial see the redeployment of non-essential personnel, allowing the maintenance and completion of extant tasks to continue. The redeployment of remaining elements will be carefully considered and enacted only once all recipient stakeholders are postured to provide recovery support in accordance with community expectations.     

 

New South Wales and Australian Capital Territory – Joint Task Force 1110

Recent activity

  • The ADF maintains a presence in the ACT, postured to provide support to local flood events or the re-emergence of a fire threat. Easing conditions in the ACT have reduced the immediate support requested by the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) and as such support to the ESA has concluded as of  February 18. It is expected that conditions will allow the ADF to reduce its presence in the ACT over the coming days. 

Engineering support ACT

  • The Commanding Officer from Engineer Task Group continues to work with the ACT Emergency Services Agency (ESA) to coordinate engineering, including heavy plant assets, to support including key routes and surrounding routes west of the ACT near Bago Forest and Caraboost. Clearance of areas near Bago State Forest have concluded to enable the conduct of logging operations.

  • Engineers conducted protective works in the vicinity of Tidbinbilla Reserve as part of ongoing support to ACT Parks and Wildlife. 

Engineering support NSW

  • ADF personnel continue to support route clearance operations near Upper Turon. As of February 23, the task was assessed as 84 per cent complete with 42km of the required 50km cleared.

  • The ADF continues to work in conjunction with BlazeAid near Olinda removing damaged fencing, repairs and replacement. As of February 23,  this task was assesed as 55 per cent complete with 27.5km of the required 50km repaired/replaced. 

  • ADF personnel have (as at February 23) completed 40 per cent of their route clearance task in the vicinity of Colo Heights to ensure routes within the National Park remain safe for Parks and Wildlife personnel to operate in.

  • Forty-three engineers from the Indonesian National Armed Forces continue route clearance activities in the Dargen, Clarence and Colo Heights region of the Blue Mountains. The Indonesian contingent is expected to conclude tasks in the coming week in preparation for their return to Indonesia. 

  • Engineers have completed clean-up tasks on the Zig-Zag railway in Clarence. 

  • Clearance operations within Clarance and Dargon are complete. These works consisted of route clearance, fence remediation and containment line improvements. 

  • The final clearance of Eurobodalla Botanic Gardens began on February 16. ADF personnel supported civilian agencies with the clearance of flood debris and fire damage. Remaining tasks include the construction of a retaining wall, minor landscaping and the replacement of shade cloth.

  • Final clearance operations along Mt Darragh Road on the south coast are complete and the road is cleared as of February 13. The clearance of this road is allowing civilian agencies to access fallen trees and landfall, while ADF personnel support the clearance of 2000m of fencing.

  • ADF personnel have concluded clearance operations within the Shoalhaven local government area. Clearance tasks have been conducted near Burrier, Bendalong, St George Basin and Ulladulla. The clearance of debris has been focused around water pumping stations, sewage treatment plants and sewage pumping stations.

  • Route clearance operations continue in support of the Bega Valley Shire Council with particular focus on Devils Hole Road, Orchard Road and Big Jack Mountain Road.

  • Chainsaw teams and plant continue to support route clearance operations along Lower Mannus Road, River Road, Ox Lane, Bago Forrest Road, Woolshed Road and Willigobung Road.

  • Route clearance operations continue within the Lithgow region, with a particular focus on Wolgan Road. To date, 18km has been cleared in the area.

  • Tree felling operations using military engineer equipment, along Black Range Raod, Batlow Road, Tooma Road and Mackays Road.

  • Having completed a final reconnaissance on February 18, ADF personnel commenced work to construct a 4WD bypass route near Wytaliba on February 19. The establishment of this route will enable access by ground based emergency service personnel and resupply to the isolated residents of Wytaliba. As of February 23, the bypass route is 80 per cent complete. The current state of the route allows for emergency resupply while the engineering works continue. 

  • Military veterinarian detachment has supported Bungendore veterinarian services with the triage and treatment of fire-injured fauna. It is expected this support will no longer be required in the coming days.

  • Tree felling tasks are ongoing on routes including Munderoo-Ournie Road, Maragle Road, Courabyra Road, Bonza Crescent, Back Kunama Road, Old Tumbarumba Road.

  • Heavy plant has provided assistance to firebreak development near Peak View, which also included the provision of bulk water assets.

  • Removal of damaged fencing and fencing repair tasks in Nana Glen and the Richmond Valley are now complete. It is assessed that the task at Nana Glen included 6600m of fencing having been removed and 8900m of fencing erected. 

  • Clearance of dangerous trees from Nambucca Valley is now assessed as complete. As of February 17, 6100m of clearances have been conducted. 

  • ADF personnel completed support to route clearances tasks near Belowra, Yadboro, Nerringgundah, Yambulla and Deua River Valley on February 18. These works helped local authorities in gaining access to radio communications sites in these areas. 

  • ADF personnel continue to support radio site restoration activities. Reconnaissance of Telco Tower near Belowra was conducted with assessments indicating 50 per cent damage from recent weather events. A reconnaissance of Telco Tower near Tuross Head is still inaccessible for assessment due to route closures. Clearance of this route is assessed as 30 per cent complete.

  • ADF personnel continue to support local agencies in Kempsey through the remediation of fencing. As of February 23, the task was 54 per cent complete with 7060m of fencing having been cleared and 6100m of fencing been repaired.  

  • ADF personnel continue to support fencing and clearance tasks in Wauchope. As of February 23, these tasks were 29 per cent complete, with additionally up to 60 trees have been cleared across three properties.​​​​​​​

Reconnaissance, surveillance and rotary wing support ACT

  • The ADF provided a dedicated team at Canberra Airport supporting the RFS to replenish its DC-10 with fire retardant following fire-bombing missions.
  • On February 18, reconnaissance of Booroomba Merino Station was conducted to confirm required fence and route clearance tasks. Works began on February 19 and ADF personnel are supporting fencing remediation and clearance operations.

Reconnaissance, surveillance and rotary wing support NSW

  • The ADF maintains rotary wing support at HMAS Albatross in Nowra that is able to provide support to the NSW and ACT governments upon request. 

ACT community engagement

  • Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) personnel are working in Canberra.
  • On February 17, members of the JTF attended the Eden Public School as part of a local community engagement initiative. ADF personnel discussed recovery tasks in the area and it afforded pupils an interesting insight into some aspects of ADF employment.

NSW community engagement

  • ADF personnel attended a council recovery meeting with members of the Shoalhaven council body to discuss ongoing task requirements.
  • The ADF is conducting community and leadership engagements with the Shoalhaven council to determine further areas for assistance with teams postured to assist in clearing flood debris from beach and estuarine areas.
  • Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) personnel are working in Tumut, Taree, Nowra, Cooma, Bombala, Bega and Richmond.
  • Aboriginal Liaison officer is conducting community engagement and liaison with Aboriginal Land Councils within Eurobodalla.
  • Members of the ADF contingent based in ACT and central NSW participated in a cricket match with members of the Batlow region on February 16.
  • At the request of the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, the ADF will join state and local agencies in a community outreach program in Eden, Bega and Cobargo. This program is designed to ensure that residents are informed of the support available in each region. 

Fodder and water

  • Bulk water distribution around the Rockton and Collington regions is now concluded.
  • Since commencement of operations in ACT and surrounding bushland, about 105,000 litres of bulk water has been provided by ADF bulk water specialists to RFS operations.
  • A water purification and desalination system was installed on February 18 to support water production to the Bega Valley Shire Council. The system is providing up to 360,000 litres of drinking water each day and has produced 1,750,000 litres so far for the community (as of February 23). A second water purification system was moved to Brogo Dam as part of a standard programmed maintenance rotation of equipment.
  • Bulk fodder deliveries continue in support of properties near Rockton, totalling 21,600kg to date (February 15). Final fodder delivery is expected within the next 24 to 48 hours.
  • ADF veterinarian support has been provided to the Numeralla Koala Sanctuary in Cooma. It is expected that this support will be no longer be required in the coming days. 

Health and pastoral support

  • ADF chaplains have operated in Bega, Cobargo, Cooma, Eden, Singleton, Tumbarumba, Batlow and Kiah. 
  • An ADF primary health care team support is being provided in Canberra and Pambula. 

 

South Australia and Tasmania – Joint Task Force 1111

  • Recovery operations to clear roads, trees and debris, fix signposts and remove damaged fences continues.
  • JTF1111 continues to support SA Water, SA Health, State Emergency Service (SES), National Parks Service and Country Fire Service (CFS) infrastructure.
  • JTF 1111 has successfully produced enough water to fill Penneshaw, Kangaroo Island drinking water supply to pre fire season levels. SA Water has stated they no longer require ADF for water production. Preparations have commenced for the redeployment of this capability, allowing it to be used in other locations, if required.

Kangaroo Island engineering support

  • Engineers completed an enduring task on February 19 which supported the enhancement of habitat for the endangered Dunnart species.
  • Engineers in Flinders Chase National Park continue with tree and route clearance.
  • ADF personnel continue to support the replacement of road signage. ADF personnel continue to support the maintenance of operations at a biocontrol wash point.
  • Joint Task Force engineers have now completed their task of producing clean drinking water as a priority at Penneshaw. ADF water production has now reached pre-fire levels and the team is postured to redeploy as required by state and local authorities.

Community engagement

  • ADF personnel on Kangaroo Island attended a recovery coordination meeting on February 18 to discuss whole-of-government ongoing tasks and management.
  • JTF-1111 have been conducting tree and fence clearance and camp co-ordination in support of BlazeAid.
  • The ADF is currently supporting two Department of Human Services recovery centres.

Logistics ands recovery

  • The Joint Task Force continues to monitor weather conditions and take preventative measures on Kangaroo Island and the Adelaide Hills due to high rainfall and possible risk of localised flooding. 

Kangaroo Island

  • Joint Task Force is providing support to the South Australian Country Fire Service (SA CFS) in the Blue Gums complex to clear log piles.
  • Teams continue to complete chainsaw tasks, focusing on any outstanding requests for support.
  • ADF teams are supporting the State Emergency Service and National Parks with infrastructure repairs in Parndana and Vivonne Bay.
  • The Joint Task Force is also helping local farmers to clear routes, boundary fences and to clear damaged shed materials. By way of an example, ADF members cleared 2.1km of damaged fencing on February 13.
  • The JTF continues to support civilian agencies with catering and environmental health support. 
  • JTF personnel continue to support BlazeAid is the remediation and establishment of fencing on the island.

Adelaide Hills

  • Teams continued to assist with local infrastructure support, route clearance, clean water delivery and clean up of fire damage.
  • The ADF has provided bulk water and environmental health support to local communities. The requirement for this support is concluding as the Adelaide Hills returns to normal business operations. 
  • ADF personnel continue to work with the Lobethal Recovery Centre, which is providing emergency relief and support to residents in the Adelaide Hills and Cudlee Creek areas.
  • ADF personnel have completed support to management authorities for the handling of treated pine waste in conjunction with Green Industries South Australia.
  • JTF personnel continue to support Team Rubicon in Adelaide Hills in the conduct of fence remediation and clearance operations.
  • ADF operations in the Adelaide Hills are expected to conclude in the coming week as the community and businesses resume normal operations. The ADF remains postured to respond to any further requests in conjunction with the National Bushfire Recovery Agency and other government agencies. 

Tasmania

  • The emergency support force within Tasmania remains ready to support the Tasmanian Emergency Services if required.

 

Air transport support

Victoria, NSW and ACT

  • ADF aerial survey support in Victoria, NSW and the ACT through the Defence Experimentation Aerial Platform (DEAP) has now concluded. Personnel and cargo movement continues across all states through RAAF mobility platforms such as the C-130J Hercules and C-27J Spartan.  

 

Navy support

  • HMAS Canberra remains the designated humanitarian assistance and disaster relief vessel. HMAS Canberra completed a port visit to Hobart on February 17 and has since commenced unit readiness training east of Australia. HMAS Canberra remains equipped with humanitarian stores and an Army Amphibious Beach Team, to enable it to provide rapid support if required. Maritime support continues to be reviewed to ensure that the ADF remains responsive to evolving community requirements.
  • HMAS Adelaide remains in Sydney for refit and refurbishment, but remains on reduced notice to continue to provide support if required.

 

International support

ADF efforts are supported by about 97 international military personnel. This includes:

  • 43 engineers from Indonesian National Armed Forces arrived in Australia on February 2 and are currently in support of operations in the Blue Mountains. It is expected that the Indonesian contingent will conclude operations in the coming week.
  • 99 Papua New Guinea Defence Force members – largely engineers – operated as part of JTF 646 in the Omeo region of Victoria. The Papua New Guinea contingent has concluded operations and departed Victoria on February 21. 
  • 54 Republic of Fiji Military Force engineers have supported operations in the East Gippsland region in vicinity of Orbost. The contingent has now concluded operations and will depart Australia on February 25.  
  • 10 United States Air Force members provided two cargo load teams who operated from RAAF Base East Sale. The United States contingent has concluded operations and the final personnel departed Australia on February 16. 
  • 40 Republic of Singapore Air Force members and CH-47 Chinook helicopters have completed final tasking. They have supported the movement of firefighters and delivery of fodder, food and water to inaccessible areas. We thank them for their support and commitment to assisting affected communities. They have now returned to Oakey Army Base in Queensland to continue training. 
  • New Zealand Defence Force previously provided C-130, engineering support and three NH-90 helicopters, and have since returned to New Zealand.
  • Canada provided a C-17 aircraft to deliver fire-retardant to Australia and assisted in the redeployment of the New Zealand Defence Force contingent. 

 

Defence base support

  • RAAF Base East Sale continues to support Defence aircraft and has resumed normal base operations. 
  • RAAF Base Richmond and RAAF Base Edinburgh are providing airbase access and support for Large Aerial Tanker and spotter aircraft as required. 
  • RAAF Base Wagga is providing refuelling support.
  • HMAS Albatross has provided accommodation and meals for RFS personnel.
  • Marrangaroo Training Area has been made available for RFS operations.
  • HMAS Harman and the Australian Defence Force Academy are supporting JTF 1110 through engineering, accommodation and catering support and maintain capacity to support the Rural Fire Service and evacuations as required.
  • As of February 20, more than 178,789 meals have been provided on Defence bases to emergency services personnel and evacuees.

Key facts

The following facts provide a snapshot of current ADF contributions to Op Bushfire Assist:

  • Distance of roads cleared: 4782km
  • Distance of fences cleared/repaired: 1286.5km
  • Distance of firebreaks cleared: 240km
  • Total amount of water purified on Kangaroo Island: 3,880,000 litres
  • Total number of ground vehicles involved:
    • Victoria: 250 vehicles
    • NSW/ACT: JTF1111 is operating more than 400 vehicles
    • SA: JTF1110 is operating 449 vehicles
  • Cargo delivered: 
    • Water: 7,618,670 litres
    • Fuel (all types): 73,300 litres
    • Fodder: 1,344,075 kilograms
    • More than 73,742 meals have been provided on Defence bases to emergency services personnel and evacuees.

 

    For Defence images of the bushfire emergency support, go to:

    http://images.defence.gov.au/S20192970

    Videos of the ADF's continuing role in the bushfire crisis can be viewed via Department of Defence Australia's YouTube channel at:

    http://bit.ly/DefenceYoutube

    Stories related to Operation Bushfire Assist are available on the Defence News site at:

    https://news.defence.gov.au