A SA Air Force (SAAF) Oryx medium transport helicopter again showed its worth this week in a single day of firefighting operations in the southern Cape.
The helicopter from 22 Squadron at AFB Ysterplaat was tasked to assist with firefighting in the Riversdale area on Wednesday after high temperature and berg wind conditions saw fires that started on Sunday.
More than 50 firefighters from the Garden Route District Municipality, George Municipality, Gou Kou Farm Watch, the Southern Cape Fire Protection Association and Working on Fire (WOF) supported by helicopters, are fighting fires reportedly threatening Cape St Francis and surrounding areas.
“The Oryx was deployed on Wednesday, flew eight hours and put 52 Bambi buckets of water onto the ground,” SANDF Joint Operations Division, SO1, Operational Communication, Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, said. The Bambi bucket slung by the military helicopter has a maximum load of 2,5 tons but is filled to 80% capacity (two thousand litres) for better operational efficiency.
The Oryx flew to AFB Overberg for the night in anticipation of being called out again on Thursday but it was not needed as an early morning inspection determined the major danger was past and locally-based firefighters could cope.
On Tuesday WOF pilot Nico Heyns (65) died when the Huey (Bell UH-1 Iroquois) he was flying crashed during firefighting. His aircraft went down near Riversdale. The cause of the crash has not been made public and the Civil Aviation Authority of SA is investigating.