Air-crane water bombing helicopter Ichabod arrived at Penrith’s Sydney International Regatta Centre one month early on Friday, to be put through its operational readiness checks for the bushfire season.
Onlookers saw Ichabod collect water, using a snorkel, and do a water drop.
‘‘The helicopters can’t pick up saltwater [because] it destroys the engine,’’ said Keith Mackay, Superintendent at NSW Rural Fire Service.
Having passed its checks, Ichabod can now be deployed across NSW from its base in Bankstown Airport and will be joined shortly by its sister air-crane, Gypsy Lady.
‘‘They are on a 15-minute call-out,’’ Superintendent Mackay said.
He said the RFS considers ‘‘What’s the fire’s potential?’’ before deploying helicopters to fires.
Each air-crane is named by the engineer who designed it, he said.
‘‘If you see the Ichabod in the sky, you really do know the angels are coming to save you"— Stuart Ayres
Ichabod is named after Ichabod Crane in Washington Irving's short story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Police and Emergency Services Minister Stuart Ayres and NSW Rural Fire Service deputy commissioner Rob Rogers attended the annual arrival of the air-crane water bombing helicopter, along with Penrith MP Fiona Scott.
The statutory bush fire danger period began on October 1 but more than a third of the state had commenced its danger period ahead of schedule due to prevailing dry conditions.
Ichabod’s checks were also conducted early for this reason, Mr Ayres said.
‘‘We’re 12 months, almost to the day, from when we lost 200 homes in an afternoon,’’ he said.
‘‘We are in a high-risk time ... so we have brought this asset in early.’’
He said the air-craft — one of about 100 used by the RFS — has been leased with joint state and federal government funding.
‘‘We’re very happy with the leasing arrangement. It’s definitely the most cost-effective [practise],’’ Mr Ayres said.
Mr Rogers said it could also be borrowed by the other states.
Said Mr Ayres: ‘‘If you see the Ichabod in the sky, you really do know the angels are coming to save you.’’
The statutory bush fire danger period began on October 1 and ends on March 31, 2015.
Anyone wanting to conduct a hazard reduction burn during this period must contact their local NSW RFS Fire Control Centre or local fire station and apply for a free permit.
Heavy penalties — including fines of up to $2200 — apply for landholders who do not follow BFDP restrictions and rules.
Discarding a lit cigarette now carries an increased fine of $660, which doubles to $1320 during a total fire ban.