Experts probe chopper crash

Written By miftah nugraha on Jumat, 08 Februari 2013 | 19.55

Devastation left by the fierce blaze at Molesworth. Picture: ZARA DAWTREY

EXPERTS are trying to determine what caused a helicopter to crash while battling a bushfire near Collinsvale.

Tasmania Police officers today walked to the scene of the crash to examine the badly damaged machine.

Air crash investigators will conduct a mechanical investigation but access to the stricken chopper has been hampered by fires burning nearby.

The helicopter was water bombing a home near paddocks behind Collinsvale, north-west of Hobart, late yesterday afternoon when the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing because of a sudden mechanical failure.

The Tasmania Fire Service says the pilot was badly shaken but walked away without injury.

The loss of the helicopter was a major blow for the 38 crews on duty last night, battling to save Molesworth and Collinsvale homes.

The TFS says a drop in wind speed and temperature, coupled with a small amount of rain, has improved the situation today and so far no homes have been lost.

The fire has ripped through more than 1000ha of land and evacuated residents are being asked to stay away from the area until further notice.

Glen Dhu Rd and Collins Cap Rd remain closed, with pastures scorched, fences destroyed and power poles still smouldering.

Speaking at Molesworth today, TFS district officer Mark Klop said the main fire front was burning in the cliffs behind Glen Dhu Rd.

The rugged terrain was making it very difficult to put in more containment lines.

"We've got two dozers working to build fire breaks at the moment but the helicopters have proved invaluable to us fighting this fire," he said.

"We can't get ground crews or dozers into most of the areas where the fires have been burning, so without the aircraft the situation would've been very different."

The TFS has three helicopters water bombing and conducting fly-overs to map the fire today.

Mr Klop said homes would have been lost without the aerial presence.

"They've certainly protected a lot of homes and they've also kept our ground crews safe," Mr Klop said.

"Something flares up, we tell them, and they come in and bomb it until the danger passes and we're right. They're doing an excellent job."

A "watch and act" alert is in place for residents of the fire-affected areas, with regular updates available on the TFS website.

Read more in tomorrow's Mercury ...

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