FLYING HIGH: The Rural Fire Service are using aviation support to allow for sophisticated technology including thermal imaging to assist them to combat fires and support firefighters on the ground.
FLYING HIGH: The Rural Fire Service are using aviation support to allow for sophisticated technology including thermal imaging to assist them to combat fires and support firefighters on the ground. RFS Brad Stewart

How helicopters and aerial technology help fight fires

AVIATION support is providing vital data through thermal imaging to keep firefighters safe while they combat fires on the North Coast.

Rrural Fire Service public liaison officer Brad Stewart said several aircraft were supporting 30 personnel at the Clearfield Rd fire near Rappville.

He said the fire remains the largest of seven fires burning in the Richmond Valley and Kyogle LGAs with firefighters having established containment lines on all sides of the fire.

"We have multiple (aircraft) platforms including Firebird 200, a Squirrel helicopter with a gimbal mounted high-definition camera on board,” he said on Friday morning.

"It's airborne now and is providing the team with detailed aerial imagery.

"This ranges from normal to thermal imaging to see hotspots through the smoke.”

Mr Stewart said the airborne technology was also extremely useful for mapping fire areas.

"It gives us valuable valuable intelligence to how the fires are developing and allow us to do send out timely public warnings, information and updates,” he said.

"We also have a Jet Ranger (helicopter) for air attack and our air supervisor who is a flying aircraft controller.

"The air supervisor communicates with fire units on the ground and ensure aircraft involved in water bombing are delivering water and retardant to where the ground crews need it.”

Firefighting crews are using 12 fire trucks and are supported also by three heavy plant earth-moving vehicles as there continues to be active fire within the containment lines, he said.

"The Clearfield fire control centre comprises 17 people including representatives from local councils, Forestry Corporation of NSW, RFS and National Parks,” Mr Stewart said.

"Elevated fire weather forecasts are coming through on Sunday and Monday, but currently all our fire are rated as controlled or patrolled,” he said.

"We will continue to look for hotspots until we are confident these fires are completely out.”

Meanwhile, Mr Stewart said landowners need to be aware that heavy penalties await those who undertake burning with a permit.

"Any burning in the open from midnight tonight (Friday) must be done with permit,” he said.

"There are substantial fines and potential prison terms for people found to be lighting fires and burning off without a permit.”

Mr Stewart said the RFS also urges anyone who has undertaken burning off in the past four weeks to check the fire has been completely extinguished.

"We have seen too many fires reignite after someone thought they were out,” he said.