U.S air tanker Thor to stay until mid January

Thor, the Hercules C130 tanker, has had his stay at Richmond RAAF Base extended for the 2016-17 bushfire season.

Thor: The fire-fighting plane will be housed at the Richmond RAAF Base and be able to reach anywhere in the state in under an hour.

Thor: The fire-fighting plane will be housed at the Richmond RAAF Base and be able to reach anywhere in the state in under an hour.

Emergency Services Minister, David Elliott said the NSW government had extended the contract for the Hercules C130 to stay for another month until mid-January 2017.

The large air tankers provides valuable assistance to firefighters as they battle bushfires and is staying amid predictions of challenging summer weather ahead.

Thor drops a load adjacent to Richmond RAAF Base as part of a display on Thursday, September 8. The Large Air Tanker ‘Thor’ will remain in NSW into the new year to assist firefighters on the ground. Photo: Geoff Jones

Thor drops a load adjacent to Richmond RAAF Base as part of a display on Thursday, September 8. The Large Air Tanker ‘Thor’ will remain in NSW into the new year to assist firefighters on the ground. Photo: Geoff Jones

So far this fire season, Thor has assisted firefighters at blazes in Cranebrook, Londonderry, Bega, Lower Hunter and the Shoalhaven. Last season, ‘Thor’ completed 96 flight operations, dropping close to 1.5 million litres of water and fire retardant. 

Thor is on loan to the NSW Rural Fire Service again from the United States. It can carry more than 15,000 litres of water at a time. Housed at Richmond the tanker can reach anywhere in the state in under an hour.

“This decision was a no-brainer,” Mr Elliott said. “We have more than 70,000 NSW RFS volunteers ready to respond when bush fires threaten lives and property. Now Thor can continue to assist them and other firefighters in both the initial attack of new fires and in building containment lines.” 

Thor has a cruise speed of 545km/h and joins the Southern Belle and the NSW Rural Fire Service’s (NSW RFS) firefighting force of more than 100 aircraft.

The government has spent $9.8 million in the trial of Thor and Southern Belle over two years to help fight bushfires.

“It’s an important asset in our firefighting arsenal,” Mr Elliot said.

NSW RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said with hot weather expected,having support from Thor was vital.

“There is an increased grass fire threat,” Commissioner Fitzsimmons said. “With the Bureau of Meteorology predicting a dryer and warmer summer, we’re encouraging everyone to make sure they take the steps needed to prepare their families, homes and properties from fire risk.

Thor in action at the Richmond RAAF Base

Thor in action at the Richmond RAAF Base