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Prime Minister calls in up to 3000 Defence Force reserves to help with the bushfire crisis

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ScoMo calls in the army: Prime Minister says 3,000 Australian Defence Force Reserve members are called up to assist with the bushfire crisis

  • First time in living memory mass military reserves have been called up for fires
  • Three Chinook helicopters from Townsville will provide air support 
  • Military bases from Adelaide to Brisbane will give emergency accommodation 
  • HMAS Adelaide will help evacuate people from the coast
  • $20 million to lease four more firefighting aircraft with waterbombers coming

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deploy up to 3000 Australian Defence Force (ADF) reserves to help the bushfire recovery, he announced on Saturday.

More reservists may be called up as needed later, the Prime Minister told reporters at Parliament House, Canberra. 

Mr Morrison joined Defence Minister Linda Reynolds for a joint press conference as conditions deteriorated across Australia’s embattled southeast on Saturday afternoon. 

From left: Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Director General of Emergency Management Australia Rob Cameron make the announcement from Parliament House, Canberra, on Saturday

From left: Australian Defence Force chief Angus Campbell, Defence Minister Linda Reynolds, Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Director General of Emergency Management Australia Rob Cameron make the announcement from Parliament House, Canberra, on Saturday

Ms Reynolds said she believes it is the first time the reserves had been called out en masse for a bushfire response in the nation’s history. 

‘Up to 3000 reservists will be called out into the field,’ Ms Reynolds said. 

‘That is about the same as the number of NSW RFS (Rural Fire Service) firefighters in the field today, for context.’

The Governor-General has already signed off on the reserve call-out to fire affected communities.

‘The compulsory call-out will give the ADF the authority to direct reservists to provide continual full-time service, to provide civil, aid, humanitarian, medical, civil emergency and disaster assistance,’ Ms Reynolds said.

Mr Morrison told reporters the government would spend an extra $20 million leasing four more firefighting aircraft, with the operating costs to be shared with the states who request them.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison flies over NSW bushfires in a military chopper on December 23

Prime Minister Scott Morrison flies over NSW bushfires in a military chopper on December 23

Australian Defence Force reserves have been called up to help with bushfire recovery. Australia's navy is now helping evacuate people from the coast. Evacuees are pictured being ferried to Royal Australian Navy vessel MV Sycamore from Mallacoota, Victoria, on Friday

Australian Defence Force reserves have been called up to help with bushfire recovery. Australia’s navy is now helping evacuate people from the coast. Evacuees are pictured being ferried to Royal Australian Navy vessel MV Sycamore from Mallacoota, Victoria, on Friday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would call up its Defence Force reservists on Saturday to cope with the bushfire crisis, and source additional waterbombing aircraft

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would call up its Defence Force reservists on Saturday to cope with the bushfire crisis, and source additional waterbombing aircraft

Two more waterbombing aircraft of the type specified as needed by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre would be available within the next week and a third within 14 days, he said.

The Prime Minister has responded to criticism that he was lacking in leadership and needed to step up with a national approach to the crisis.

‘As I said now, we are moving past responding, we’re not waiting to be asked, we’re moving forward and integrating with what is happening on the ground,’ he said.

HMAS Adelaide, the Navy’s largest amphibious ship, will help evacuate people from the coast.

The landing helicopter dock ship will head from Sydney to Mallacoota, the beach on the Victorian coast where thousands of people are stranded.

‘They will sail this afternoon, they will be located offshore from the fire-affected areas from tomorrow afternoon,’ Mr Morrison said. 

Mr Morrison also said air support would be coming with three Chinook helicopters from Townsville together with other military aircraft.

Defence Force bases from Adelaide to Brisbane would also be opened for emergency short-term accommodation he said.  

Defence Force reservists whose homes are under threat, or who are already volunteering in rural fire services will be exempt from the call-out.

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*If you are in the Defence Force reserves and have questions, call 1800 DEFENCE 

Firefighters battling the Gospers Mountain fire northwest of Sydney on December 21

Firefighters battling the Gospers Mountain fire northwest of Sydney on December 21

A Defence Force aircrewman monitoring the Tianjara fire from a helicopter in Moreton, NSW, on December 21. Up to 3000 Defence Force reservists have now been called up

A Defence Force aircrewman monitoring the Tianjara fire from a helicopter in Moreton, NSW, on December 21. Up to 3000 Defence Force reservists have now been called up

OPERATION BUSHFIRE ASSIST

The Australian Defence Forces have so far given help including:

 VICTORIA

– Joint Task Force 646 with 370 personnel is supporting emergency services

– RAAF evacuating children and the elderly from Mallacoota by air

– Two navy ships evacuating 1100 people from Mallacoota beach

NEW SOUTH WALES

–  Joint Task Force 1110 with 250 personnel is conducting engineering reconnaissance for route clearance and recovery

– RAAF Base Richmond is providing refuelling, support for NSW Rural Fire Service waterbombing and spotter aircraft 

– Naval Air Station Nowra is helping with water refuelling and fire retardant loading of aircraft fighting the Currowan fire on the NSW south coast 

– RAAF is flying large groups of firefighters and equipment between locations as required

– Army chefs are cooking for 250 firefighters at the Northern Rivers fire staging ground

– HMAS Albatross is housing up to 90 firefighters near Nowra

– Both the Army and Navy are providing helicopters to map fires, conduct surveillance and for search and rescue missions 

 SOUTH AUSTRALIA

– RAAF Base Edinburgh is refuelling and supplying water to South Australian Country Fire Service waterbombing aircraft 

Source: Department of Defence website 

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