DFES - Department of Fire and Emergency Services
000 for fire or life threatening emergencies
132 500 for SES emergency assistance
13 DFES (13 3337) for emergency information
General enquiries | Hearing or speech impaired contacts
SHARE: Refer this page to a friend




Fleet and Perform​ance

DFES currently operates a sophisticated aerial fleet to respond rapidly to fire and emergency incidents, strengthen firefighter capabilities and protect lives and property during Western Australia’s (WA) volatile bushfire season.  

The firefighting fleet consists of six Bell 214B Type 1 helitaks with 2,700 litre water lifting capacity each, one Sikorsky S64 Type 1 High Volume Erickson Air Crane with 7,000 litres water lifting capacity and one air intelligence helicopter to provide fire mapping information to incident controllers and one air attack supervisor helipcopter.  

Type 1 helitaks may also be used to rescue and relocate people during significant natural disasters such as flooding and to transport food and water to isolated communities.

Each year the WA State Government and Australian Federal Government allocates funding to enhance WA’s helicopter fleet, which include deploying additional aircraft from overseas to provide assistance and combat fires during the bushfire season between December and April.

DFES’s fleet of helicopters plays a pivotal role in supporting ground firefighters to preserve and protect life, property and the environment in WA.

Back to top


Deployment and Activity

Helitaks are deployed when public safety and or assets are considered at imminent risk, when firefighting crew are in immediate danger, during extreme fire behavior and when high fuel loads are likely to accelerate and spread the fire.

Since their introduction in 2002, helitaks have proved to be a versatile, powerful and efficient aerial resource supporting firefighters to protect and save lives and homes.

Under the Bush Fires Act 1954, Fire Brigades Act 1942 and Emergency Management Act 2005, laws and legislation are in place allowing helitaks to collect water from sources found on private residential and commercial land.

Fresh water is sourced from lakes, dams, streams, reservoirs and portable collar tanks from points that offer safe and clear entry and exit paths free from infrastructure and obstructions.

Salt water is not used as spray leaves residue on the helicopters mechanical components and interferes with visibility compromising the safety of the crew.

Water sources are chosen based on proximity to the incident, access to the water source, visibility, level and suitability of water available with little or no potential risk to public spectators.

Helitaks are unable to collect water from domestic swimming pools as a 100 metre clearance is required for approach and take-off as the helicopters create substantial rotor wash and dangerous turbine heat emissions that present a risk to people and property.

Back to top



Helitak activity is closely monitored and recorded in the DFES Air Operations computerized database to enable accurate reporting to WA State Government and the National Aerial Fire Fighting Centre (NAFC).

Back to top


Fast Facts:

  • During WA’s December 2012 to April 2013 bushfire season helitaks dropped over four million litres of water and foam.
  • More than 2,400aerial water drops were made in four months working with career and volunteer fire fighters saving homes and protecting communities from 3,805 bushfires.
  • DFES’s aerial fleet was activated 188 times during the southern summer bushfire season and spent 442 hours airborne.
  • DFES’s new fleet of aircraft commencing in 2013/14 includes Type 1 and Type 1 High Volume helitaks.
  • Each Type 1 Bell 214B helitak can carry up to 10 people, equipment and has the capacity to hold 2,700 litres of water.
  • The Sikorsky S64 Erickson Air Crane Type 1High Volume helitak has the capacity to hold 7,000 litres of water.
  • The Department of Parks and Wildlife operates fixed-wing aircraft including eight water bombers who work jointly with DFES.
  • The WA State Government invested nearly $20 million during the 2012 to 2013 bushfire season on WA’s helicopter and fixed wing fleet bringing additional aircraft into the state.

Back to top



Quick-Fact-Sheet-AS365-Firebird-661.pdfQuick-Fact-Sheet-AS365-Firebird-661609 KB
Quick-Fact-Sheet-Beechcraft-King-Air-Linescanner.pdfQuick-Fact-Sheet-Beechcraft-King-Air-Linescanner521 KB
Quick-Fact-Sheet-Bell-214B-Helitak.pdfQuick-Fact-Sheet-Bell-214B-Helitak282 KB
Quick-Fact-Sheet-Erickson-S64E-Aircrane-Helitanker.pdfQuick-Fact-Sheet-Erickson-S64E-Aircrane-Helitanker203 KB

Back to top



 Your feedback on this content is appreciated

Was this information useful?