SHE was the angel in the sky over Port Macquarie’s North Shore supporting fire crews on the ground in the battle to contain a 1700 hectare bushfire front.
The Nancy Bird DC-10 was called in on Wednesday, December 6 to drop fire retardant on a containment line one kilometre from North Shore homes as a blaze, which started near Crescent Head earlier in the week, ripped a path southward.
The Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) will play a crucial role in providing heavy duty support for the 74,000 Rural Fire Service volunteers across New South Wales this summer bushfire season and she was put to the test over the skies of the Hastings this week.
The aircraft was officially named in a ceremony at the RAAF base in Richmond last month in honour of renowned Australian aviator Nancy Bird Walton AO OBE. Nancy Bird Walton was the first woman in Australia to obtain a commercial pilot’s licence and founded an outback air ambulance service.
Nancy Bird was supported by local aircraft to scoop water from the river to feed the containment line and protect North Shore homes. Many residents were prepared to evacuate if ordered.
Ten Hastings RFS crews were commissioned to battle the blaze supporting National Parks and Wildlife units and Kempsey RFS squads to the north.
The fire erupted at Big Hill Trail, was contained briefly and re-ignited on Wednesday afternoon.
Rural Fire Service’s Stuart Robb district officer for the Mid North Coast said the fire, which was contained on Tuesday, reignited under windy conditions burning hectares of coastal heath.
Hundreds of people gathered on the headland at Town Beach to watch as the spectacular fire front rolled towards the North Shore on Wednesday evening. Ash began falling on homes across the region as far west as Wauchope.
Easing weather conditions overnight reduced fire activity with crews undertaking backburning operations to strengthen containment lines built by firefighters with the assistance of the Nancy Bird air tanker.
The fire moved in an easterly direction towards Point Plomer Road and residents are advised to avoid the Point Plomer area due to firefighting operations.
Crews are carrying out a 15km backburn along Maria River Road.
Residents in the area of Plomer Rd, Maria River Road and North Shore are advised to follow their bush fire survival plan and take direction from firefighters.
Due to the fire activity and backburning operations, there is a significant amount of smoke visible in the area and over Port Macquarie prompting a health warning from NSW Health about the potential impacts of smoke particles.