NSW firefighters to be equipped with AU$57 million worth of new bushfire equipment

New drones, cells on wheels, and vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi will be included as part of the NSW government's connected firefighter package.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor
Image: Fire and Rescue NSW

The deployment of new drones, cells on wheels, and vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi will form part of the New South Wales government's AU$57.4 million investment into arming firefights with new equipment.

Under what the state government is calling the connected firefighter package, firefighters will have access to drones that can provide images and data from incidents in real-time that can be used to assist in incident planning, and for chemical and gas detection; cells on wheels equipped with communication technology to provide power, especially in remote parts of the state without coverage; vehicles with built-in Wi-Fi that can provide mobile 4G network in remote locations where satellite connection is limited.

Fire and Rescue NSW mobile command centres will also receive upgrades to ensure there is communication between incident management teams and firefighters during incidents.

"What is apparent is that our emergency services are entering a tech boom, one which rightly puts NSW ahead of the pack this bushfire season," Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliot said in a statement on Friday. 

"These assets will ensure our first responders are safe as they enter dangerous and volatile fire grounds to protect their communities."

The investment is part of the state government's overall AU$480 million response to the independent NSW bushfire inquiry following the 2019/20 Black Summer Bushfires. The inquiry underscored a need to equip firefighters with more advanced technology, such as drones, remote sensors, data science, and artificial intelligence, to help them better understand, model, and predict bushfire behaviour, and respond more quickly.

A total of 76 recommendations were made and the state government have accepted them all.

Last October, the NSW government had already allocated AU$192 million to arm firefighters with new equipment and upgrades to the existing aerial fleet, emergency infrastructure, and Fires Near Me app.

The state government also announced as part of the 2021-22 Budget that it would direct a total of AU$28 million over four years into research and development of new technologies and industries to help New South Wales tackle future bushfires.

Specifically, this included establishing a bushfire technology network for researchers, investors, and industry, as well as work with local small businesses to develop and commercialise bushfire technologies through an early-stage Bushfire Technology Fund and ensure the new technologies are tested by NSW's frontline bushfire services.

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