Rapid Response Team ready for storm season

Specialist bushfire crews will again be on standby across the north coast to respond to lightning-strike fires this bushfire season.

North Coast rapid response team in front of helicopter

The highly trained and experienced NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) team will operate from Dorrigo or Kempsey during periods of high fire danger when there is the potential for lighting strikes to start fires.

Rapid Aerial Response Team (RART) coordinator Tony Prior said during these periods when new bushfires are detected in remote areas these crews are deployed by helicopter.

“If conditions allow, crews are winched into the fire to contain it with the support of water bucketing helicopters or fixed winged water bombers,” Tony said.

“These quick responses prevent large and costly wildfires developing that may take many weeks to control,” he said.

“Last season the NPWS RART crews responded 56 times across the state and successfully contained 53 of these fires and kept them to less than 10 hectares in size.

“The fire fighters need to be very fit as they are winched in to very steep and rugged environments and work long hours with hand-tools, chainsaws and portable pumps usually in very hot conditions.

“This type of fire fighting has been developed by the NPWS over the last 30 years and further refined over the years to work more closely with aviation resources," he said.

The RART program is an NPWS initiative whereby crews will be activated during high fire danger periods when there is the potential for new fires, especially in remote locations.

There are six of these NPWS Rapid Response Teams in NSW and they are located on the North Coast, South Coast, Central Coast/Hunter, Southern Ranges, Blue Mountains and the Northern Tablelands.

The Program has been running since 2011 and is part of the NSW government’s $62 million Enhanced Bushfire Management Program.