'Elvis' has left the building

Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management Mark Dreyfus QC today thanked pilots and support crew and farewelled fire fighting helicopters that have fought major blazes across the country this summer.

Attorney-General and Minister for Emergency Management Mark Dreyfus QC today thanked pilots and support crew and farewelled fire fighting helicopters that have fought major blazes across the country this summer.

The Erickson Aircranes, 'Elvis', 'Malcolm', 'Gypsy Lady' and 'Elsie' were leased as part of a national aerial fire fighting fleet of 56 highly specialised helicopters and planes that operated throughout Australia during the summer. In Victoria, these aircraft were involved in fighting the large blazes in the Grampians, Harrietville and Aberfeldy.

"These remarkable aircraft allow our fire fighters to respond quickly to bushfires by delivering up to nine tonnes of water at a time to the fire front," Mr Dreyfus said.

"Each Aircrane can fill in 45 seconds and reach a cruising speed of 200km/h. There have been instances this summer of these helicopters delivering in excess of 100,000 litres of water or foam per hour directly to the fire front."

"Critically, these specialised firefighting aircraft allow us to fight fires in remote areas without putting lives at risk.

Australia's national aerial fire fighting fleet is managed by the National Aerial Firefighting Centre. The Centre was formed by the states and territories to provide a cooperative national arrangement for combating bushfires.

The Commonwealth contributed $14 million to the National Aerial Firefighting Centre to fund the national fleet this summer.

"I would like to thank the National Aerial Firefighting Centre, pilots and all the support staff who have made an invaluable contribution to the fire fighting effort this summer," Mr Dreyfus said.

The helicopters will now be redeployed to fight fires in the northern hemisphere before returning to Australia in 2014.