The 2013 Cobbler Road fire that tore through more then 14,000 hectares of land in the Yass Valley sparked enthusiasm in local Yass resident Ted McIntosh to extend his aerodrome to accommodate an aerial fire fighting base. However Epuron’s Yass Valley Wind farm could hinder those plans.
Ted McIntosh owns aerial fertilising business, Yass Air Propriety Limited, which operates out of his Black Range Road property and has been in operation since 1975. He is planning an extension and realignment on his airstrip.
“The DA has been approved and the area is all surveyed and ready to go, we are just waiting for clearer weather,” Mr McIntosh said.
“We haven’t got any aerial fire fighting bases in the area, the closest is Goulburn. I remember there was an hour between loads during the 2013 fires as they had to go to Goulburn to refill.”
Mr McIntosh believes this would be a great life saving measure, a large benefit to the district and a positive move for the community. However, he is concerned that the Yass Valley wind farm will render the developments pointless.
“Already working around the Gunning wind farm is dangerous, in heavy winds we have to stop working. There are gusts through the wind farm that cause strong turbulence for 15km down wind from the turbines.”
If an airstrip is suitable for use by fire fighting aircraft and is appropriately located for a particular incident, the NSW RFS will make arrangements to utilise that airstrip, explains NSW RFS Media Officer Matt Sun.
“Ideally an airstrip that is closest to a fire would be the best and most efficient option to use in a bushfire emergency. However our aircrafts move at a rate of 300km per hour, so we consider any airstrip local.”
Mr McIntosh said that the blades at 100 plus metre diameter are difficult to see in a bushfire and the plane has to fly higher to avoid them.
“It’s an issue when the planes are water bombing, at that height the water evaporates and renders the effort useless,” Mr McIntosh said.
Matt Sun explains that any infrastructure is a risk, similar to powerlines. “We can’t operate in an area with obstacles, as it is too hazardous,” he said.
Planing is still underway by Epuron to define the precise area on which turbines will be located.
Epuron Construction Manager Andrew Wilson said that the approval and plans for the airstrip will not affect any of the plans for the wind farm.
“We don’t think it will either impact on the plans of the wind farm or the airstrip. We are just waiting for all the plans to be approved,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr McIntosh will continue his plans for his aerodrome and are hoping to have it completed before the fire season and to RFS requirements.
“Our property is perfect for the aerial fire fighting base as the property is very central and will be a two way strip.”
Mr McIntosh hopes for any community support for his venture.
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