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A year ago, the Orroral Valley, a national park in Australia, burned as a result of an accidental fire caused by a Defense helicopter. Today we know that 45 minutes passed before the exact location of the fire was reported.

The news was rekindled by recently released photographs, taken by the same helicopter that started the fire, showing a fire started by dry branches burning from the heat of the helicopter’s landing light. A tiny and easily controllable fire that could have been stopped efficiently and quickly with aerial means, but ended up becoming an inferno that burned 80% of the national park (more than 20,000 hectares) and destroyed several houses.

Pictures taken by crew members of the helicopter that accidentally started the fire. Source: ABC.

It is unknown why the helicopter crew took the photographs but did not notify the fire department (and ironic, since the helicopter’s mission was to identify landing zones for insertion and extraction of firefighting equipment). Understandably, safeguarding the safety of the crew was a priority to avoid fatal injuries to the crew. That is not questionable. But is safeguarding the crew incompatible with alerting the fire department? You can’t radio in the location of a fire, but you can take pictures to show how it started.

Without wanting to seek blame or point fingers, we must reopen the debate, to once again address “the question”: do we really need so many examples to realize how important it is to be preventative when it comes to fires? In retrospect, (as is now commonplace), wasn’t it worth sending a fast attack aircraft to avert this disaster?

There are means that cannot be dispensed with. Safeguarding our natural heritage, so unique and valuable, and belonging to all citizens, should be a compelling reason for public administrations. Not to mention the material damage, the exorbitant economic costs and the loss of human lives, animals and fauna that this entails.

Once again, as operators, we appeal to reason. Fast, light aircraft like the AT-802 can take off in 15 minutes and extinguish fires when they are weak. Nothing more is needed. Let us not waste any more time, lives, infrastructure … on archaic models that advocate acting late and badly, when all is lost. We must act, but we must act well.

Font: Australian Broadcasting Corporation