Deniliquin pilot Gary Coote is in Tasmania using a firebomber to help battle the fierce blaze threatening the state.By Zoe McMaugh
Deniliquin’s Gary Coote was sent to Tasmania with a six-wing fire bomber as a precaution on Wednesday morning, and by that afternoon he was put to work.
When Mr Coote was deployed to Tasmania it was to ensure the fire bomber, which is housed at Deniliquin airport by Field Air, was on hand in the event a fire broke out.
Paul Thomas from Field Air said it wasn’t long before the plane was needed.
He said Mr Coote has been working gruelling hours ever since.
‘‘He has been flying 12 hours a day since he got there, doing an average of 20 loads of foam a day,’’ Mr Thomas said.
‘‘It’s the only six-wing over there but there are some helicopters as well.
‘‘Gary says it’s the worst flying conditions he has ever flown in, with the winds and everything.’’
Mr Coote is based out of Cambridge, 18km from Hobart.
Fires have been burning in the Richmond, Sorell and Port Arthur regions for a number of days.
More than 100 homes have already been lost in the devastated region with an estimated 40 per cent of the houses at Dunalley destroyed by fire on Friday night. At least 1000 people were evacuated from their homes.
Compared to local conditions, temperatures have not been as high in Tasmania in the past week.
On the day the fires broke out, the weather information collected by the Bureau of Meteorology at Dunalley showed the maximum was only 20.4°C and on the following day it peaked at 34.4°C.
Wind speeds have been strong however, only dropping below 60km/h on Sunday, which was the first time since Wednesday.
On Saturday, the wind speeds reached a maximum of 81km/h, fuelling the fires burning across the state.
On his first day in Tasmania, Mr Coote was fighting fires in the Richmond area.
Mr Thomas said since then Mr Coote had been ‘‘all over’’, including Dunalley.
The local pilot will not return from Tasmania until this weekend, when he is legally required to take a break from the efforts.
Mr Thomas has not ruled out having to send another pilot to Tasmania to assist.
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