Barry Semple is the air attack supervisor for the Deepwater fire.
Barry Semple is the air attack supervisor for the Deepwater fire. Matt Harris

Air attack joins fight to control Deepwater blaze

THEY'RE best defined as the angels of the sky.

While the ground crews struggle to contain the fire that's tearing through Deepwater National Park south of Agnes Water, crews in the air are striking from above.

At the pointy end of the operation is air attack supervisor Barry Semple, who is normally based in Bundaberg.

He's been flying for 10-15 years and says this is easily the biggest bushfire he's seen.

"I thought 2009 in Rockhampton was big," he said.

"(The biggest challenge) is mainly the smoke for us to get into. We can't fly into smoke, it's too dangerous, and when the wind's blowing the wrong way we can't see the fire, where it's heading to or whether there's any structures in the way. That's why it's good to get up early in the morning when we have a different wind."

The air attack is utilising a number of aircraft, including fixed wing bombers and Helitac helicopters.

A 737 Fireliner from NSW has also joined the effort.

The main role for the air crew is asset protection and looking for structures that may be in danger.

"What we've got to look at is when we're flying look for any assets and structures in danger and we try to protect them or direct ground crew in," he said.

"Flights are going well ... we're doing good comms with other aircraft flying around the area and we're doing what we're required to.

"But we always have to have ground crews to mop up because aircraft do not put fires out, they slow it down and they save structures. The amount of houses that have been saved, the ground crews have done a fantastic job and when you fly above them, you wonder how some were saved."

Mr Semple said while the crews did not have much time to assess morale on the ground, the team had been buoyed by news of strong community spirit.

He also thanked the public for heeding warnings and keeping drones out of the sky.

"I haven't seen any (drones) in our area," he said.

"We're very pleased with that, because if we have drones in the area we're all stood down as a result of that."