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Defence update to operation Vic Fire Assist.



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THE HON. JOEL FITZGIBBON MP Minister for Defence

www.defence.gov.au

Tuesday, 10 February 2009 010/2009

DEFENCE UPDATE TO OPERATION VIC FIRE ASSIST

The Minister for Defence, the Hon. Joel Fitzgibbon today visited the devastation left by the Victorian bushfires with Brigadier Michael Arnold, Commander of the Defence Joint Task Force.

Mr Fitzgibbon reaffirmed the Prime Minister’s commitment to do all possible to help the Victorian Government and the local communities in their response to the disaster.

“Yesterday the Australian Defence Force deployed heavy earth-moving equipment and approximately 70 personnel to the vital task of building fire-breaks near Broadford and Yea. They constructed about 10 kilometres of containment lines and have an aim to cut 100 kilometres by the end of the week. Teams of chainsaw operators are also helping with the task of clearing roads in the region,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

“In addition, the Air Force flew a mission over the fire-affected area using the sensors on its AP-3C Orion aircraft to assist with identification of the fire front and areas of concern.”

“160 soldiers were also deployed to Kilmore to conduct a wide area search task in Traralgon, St Andrews, Flowerdale and Yarra Glen. In all, 460 members of the Australian Defence Force are on the ground, the majority of whom are Reservists,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

The Australian Defence Force is also preparing to transport a five person Victim Identification team from the Western Australian Police to Victoria and will deploy two medical and psychological support teams in the next 24 hours to assist government agencies with the provision of specialist health support including counseling services.

Defence will also provide a qualified officer to assist in the tasking and coordination of aerial reconnaissance operations conducted by emergency services and the Australian Defence Force.

“The Australian Defence Force is currently operating in nine locations throughout the affected area. Its support is tangible evidence that the Victorian tragedy has drawn a national response and the role of the Navy, Army and Air Force is to provide whatever support is required in this time of need,” Mr Fitzgibbon said.

Images will be available at http://www.defence.gov.au/media/download/2009/Feb/index.htm

Media contacts: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664

FACT SHEET:

Australian Defence Force tasks under COMDISPLAN

The Commonwealth Disaster Plan (COMDISPLAN) has been activated. The following activities are being taken under COMDISPLAN after authorisation from the Attorney-General:

Completed • ADF has established a Victorian-based Joint Task Force of more than 450 people under the command of Brigadier Michael Arnold, the commander of the Army’s 4 Brigade. The Joint Task Force includes full-time and

reserve Defence members from the Navy, Army and Air Force.

• The Task Force has provided tents, stretchers and sleeping bags to accommodate 200 people at the Yea Recreation Reserve, in North East Victoria. 160 reserve soldiers have been sent to Yea to assist Emergency Management Authorities as required.

• It has also provided 150 portable beds or mattresses to relief centres in the Baw Baw Shire in West Gippsland. This is to provide emergency workers with facilities to get sufficient rest to continue their tireless work.

Ongoing • The Task Force includes seven pieces of heavy plant, two chainsaw sections and logistics support which have been assigned to the cleanup task broadly.

• All of these, 1 grader, 2 heavy bulldozers, 2 medium bulldozers, 1 light bulldozer, 1 front front-end loader and their associated operators have been tasked to assist with fire containment measures, re-opening of roads and fire fighting measures around the Yea area in north-east Victoria. Defence Force personnel will help build containment lines around towns in the area, which are being seriously threatened with fire.

• Four communication-dedicated Armoured Personnel Carriers will also deploy to Yea to assist ADF engineers and also can provide an emergency medical capability

• A reconnaissance team of three personnel including a liaison officer and signaller have been dispatched to the CFA Regional Command Centre to help coordinate the response.

• An Army Engineer has joined the Integrated Emergency Response Centre in the CFA HQ in Victoria to assist with a review of the bushfire situation and provide advice on additional Defence support, if required.

• A Defence liaison officer has been deployed with Emergency Management Australia and in the State Emergency Response Centre to provide increased visibility on possible future tasking for Defence.

• Additional logistics support is being provided by 4 Combat Support Services Battalion. This group assists with organising the transport of the military equipment

• A detachment of 160 self-sufficient personnel has been deployed for search and recovery assistance, in some cases in remote area. This will be drawn from the 160 Reserve personnel based in out of Maygar Barracks in the Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows.

• RAAF AP-3C Orion capable of aerial imagery has been assigned, to search the affected areas. This will enable the identification of all residences affected by the fires.

• Defence will also provide a qualified officer to assist in the tasking and coordination of aerial reconnaissance operations conducted by emergency services and the Australian Defence Force.

• The Australian Defence Force will transport a five person Victim Identification team from the Western Australian Police to Victoria and will deploy two medical and psychological support teams in the next 24 hours to assist government agencies with the provision of specialist health support including counselling services.

Media contacts: Christian Taubenschlag (Joel Fitzgibbon): 02 6277 7800 or 0438 595 567 Defence Media Liaison: 02 6265 3343 or 0408 498 664