“We’ve already got our Defence Forces providing helicopter search and rescue, ground transport, accommodation, meals and refuelling. We’ve boosted our support for water bombing planes and helicopters by $11 million.
“Disaster recovery payments of $23 million have also flowed to affected families and businesses with more to come.”
The move comes amid calls for the Morrison government to play a greater part in the bushfire response, which traditionally has fallen to state governments.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said the federal government’s “behind-the-scenes support” from the Australian Defence Force would free up firefighters to perform their primary roles.
“All three services of the ADF continue to provide significant behind the scenes support to firefighting efforts across the nation, including aerial fire reconnaissance; helicopter search and rescue; logistical support such as ground transport; providing meals for exhausted firefighters; as well as basing, refuelling, water resupply, loading fire retardant and air traffic management for firefighting aircraft,” Ms Reynolds said.
“Navy helicopters have helped with evacuating residents from their homes, Army crews have provided assistance with clearing fire breaks, while our Air Force bases are supporting the state Large Aerial Tanker fleet.”
Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister David Littleproud said the ADF deployment was a “another great example” of how all levels of government had worked together on a co-ordinated bushfire response.
“They’ll be wearing two different uniforms but have one objective, protecting Australians and their property,” Mr Littleproud said.
On Wednesday, firefighters got their first chance to tackle the fires burning in NSW head-on, as cooler conditions and light rain in some areas offered welcome relief for Christmas Day.
About 2000 firefighters and 400 fire trucks were in the the field as more than 70 fires continued to burn.
However, Weatherzone forecasts potential heatwave conditions for coastal and inland NSW in coming days, which are expected to elevate the fire risk.
“There’s certainly the potential for further days to reach maximums above 40 degrees in the next week,” Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Blair Trewin said.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.