IT MAY be named after a superhero, but Tamworth’s Rural Fire Service (RFS) crews weren’t overawed about a recent visit from one of the state’s biggest fire-fighting weapons.
More than 50 RFS volunteers and staff were trained-up at Tamworth airport over the weekend refuelling and reloading Thor, a Hercules C-130 tanker which can drop about 16,000 litres of fire suppressant.
While the aircraft shares its name with a comic-book superhero and a Norse god, Tamworth RFS Inspector Steve Prior had a much more down-to-earth summation of the water-bombing tanker.
“It’s just a really big tool for us to use,” Inspector Prior said.
Just like the hammer of its mythical namesake.
While there were no capes on the tarmac this weekend, having volunteers ready and able to load-up Thor in Tamworth could be a game-changer and a lifesaver in defending remote fires all over northern NSW.
The Hercules tanker is based at the Richmond RAAF base and prior to this weekend Dubbo was the farthest north reloading base for the aircraft in the state.
Inspector Prior said Tamworth was very “centrally located” and with trained volunteers in the region Thor’s flight time to fires in the north of the state would be shortened.
He said the Tamworth volunteers and staff could have an important role to play for Thor in the coming months with storm season on the way.
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“Those dry lighting strikes can often happen up in the hills where there are no tracks,” he said.
“We could potentially have that here in 45 minutes to an hour of flying time.”
“It can lay an extensive retardant line, which is better than carving up the land with dozers.”
Cooler weather in recent days has been welcomed by the RFS Inspector, but he said harvest time had brought a few stubble, machinery and hay-shed fires.
“It has meant reduced incidents,” he said.
“But we are barely into November and we are just coming into the start of the storm season.
“There’s been no significant impact with dry lightning yet.”