LAST year, for the first time, water bombing aircraft were stationed in Esperance during peak harvesting season.
Previously based in larger towns such as Albany, Manjimup and Jandakot, the planes were also based in Narrogin and Northam, allowing for quicker response times.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has had long-standing strike teams available for the regions, but this year the record-breaking harvest resulted in the deployment of teams closer to graingrowing regions.
"Each year harvest brings a fire risk, with higher fuel loads increasing the risk of fires escalating to a point where they threaten lives and property," said Fire and Emergency Services commissioner Darren Klemm.
"With higher crop yields this harvest after a wet winter, we strengthened our response during this high-risk period by strategically basing aircraft in graingrowing regions."
Tom Carmody was the fire control officer on the scene of a fire that broke out in East Munglinup on December 15 and utilised the water bombers to bring it under control.
The fire, which was started by a harvester, kicked off at 11.30am, burning for three days before being contained and controlled by December 18.
The fire burned 360 hectares of land, but it could have been worse.
"The fire was burning in a Tagasaste plantation and it was too sandy for us to send in both the loader or the grader, there was too much risk of them getting bogged and burned over," Mr Carmody said.
"We were waiting for the bulldozer to come and do the initial blow through, so the water bombers suppressed it at the edge of the plantation where it was coming out and where it was going to go into the bushland reserve.
"Having the water bombers supress the fire where we couldn't access it, stopped it from getting into the reserve and freed up other resources to suppress the fire when it jumped breaks and got into another paddock."
Having closer access to the planes, where their flight time is now roughly an hour to arrive rather than two, has been a learning curve for Mr Carmody.
"If we have the water bombers again, with more experience on our side we will utilise them better and sooner," he said.
Mr Carmody said it meant a change in mindset, realising that the water bombers could be there within an hour and that they weren't on their own.
"We are still learning how to use them ourselves, even down to the point of having ground controllers, you've got to be prepared to be able to use them, so it's a learning curve for us," he said.
Over the 2021-22 WA harvest 126 aerial drops were made, with more than 390,000 litres of water and redarant spread to suppress flames and prevent fires from spreading.
The water bombers covered more than 191,000 square kilometres in a six-week period from late November to early January, responding to 19 crop fires from Allanooka to Pink Lake.
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