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Remediation Force concludes recovery effort

Members of the Army Engineer Remediation Force (ERF) tasked with assisting the recovery efforts in the Blue Mountains area have returned to their respective units after completing their mission on Tuesday, 12 November 2013.

The ERF was involved in a number of key tasks during the mission including damage assessments, demolition tasks, tree felling, sediment control and swimming pool drainage.

Commander of the Force Command Element, Lieutenant Colonel (LTCOL) Robert Lording, said the ERF was able to achieve a significant amount over a relatively short time frame.

"I'm proud to say that the remediation force has completed what it was sent here to achieve," LTCOL Lording said.

"The team has worked long hours, in conjunction with the other agencies supporting the recovery, to assist the community here in the Blue Mountains."

Over the course of the operation the ERF completed the following tasks:

  • 200 demolition tasks;
  • 338 tree felling tasks;
  • 21 pool drainage tasks;
  • 11 sediment control tasks; and
  • 200 site reconnaissance tasks.

The senior ADF officer at RAAF Glenbrook, Group Captain (GPCAPT) Roger Parr, was extremely pleased with the efforts of the ERF and confirmed further aid would be provided by ADF volunteers in the region.

"The ERF has tackled the immediate safety issues at identified sites in the Springwood area. Other agencies under the direction and coordination of the Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Committee are in a position to work through the remainder of the recovery tasks," GPCAPT Parr said.

"Over the coming weeks, RAAF Glenbrook will assist the local community by assigning volunteers to assist where possible with clean up operations. It's important to note that many of these volunteers live in the area and are very much part of the Blue Mountains community."

The ERF was made up of 80 soldiers drawn from Army's 5th and 6th Brigade's, with majority of members drawn from Reserve units. Personnel and equipment will return to respective bases via road movement by Wednesday, 13 November 2013.

Background

Defence is conducting Operation NSW BUSHFIRE ASSIST to help the Blue Mountains community as it faces a significant recovery task. The NSW Government has accepted a Defence offer of assistance to support the initial community recovery. Defence personnel are helping to assess the immediate bushfire area and remove structural and environmental hazards.

Operation NSW BUSHFIRE ASSIST is being coordinated by Group Captain Roger Parr, a senior Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Officer based at RAAF Base Glenbrook.

Defence is providing an Engineer Remediation Force (ERF) to help assess and 'make safe' the houses and buildings damaged or destroyed by fire. The Engineer Remediation Force is drawn primarily from Army's Holsworthy based 17th Construction Squadron. The ERF includes up to 80 personnel equipped with dump trucks, bulldozers and front end loaders and chainsaw teams.

The ERF commenced tasking on Saturday 2 November in the Springwood area which the NSW Government identified as having the greatest need.

ERF personnel are clearing dangerous trees so residents can gain access to and enable movement around their properties and, with the owner's permission, knocking down unsafe structures and gathering the debris for removal by other agencies.

Where Defence can provide additional assistance to meet requests from the NSW Government, this support will also be provided through Operation NSW BUSHFIRE ASSIST.

Defence has allocated liaison officers to the recovery effort and Group Captain Parr is also appointed to the Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Coordination Committee.

Defence will continue to work with the Blue Mountains Emergency Recovery Coordinator, Mr Phil Koperberg, to ensure that any support that Defence provides best complements the activities of the NSW Government agencies, local communities and commercial operators.

Our thoughts are with those who have lost property or whose property was damaged or threatened by these devastating fires.

Defence also continues to support the Rural Fire Service by providing meals and accommodation.