Geoff Sprod has had his fair share of experience fighting fires from the sky. Geoff was first introduced to the risky work when his business obtained a contract with NSW National Parks and Wildlife Services to provide aviation support year-round which lasted for more than a decade.
“During that time was when we commenced doing bushfire operations,” Geoff explained.
Geoff is the owner of EPS Helicopter Services and runs his aircraft operations from Bankstown Airport. He has partnered with NRMA Insurance to help NSW Rural Fire Services (RFS) with the country’s catastrophic bushfires.
Geoff created a solution to a problem: in an Aussie first, he built a device which enables a fire retardant to be sprayed from an aircraft onto any structure, providing wildfire protection from the air.
Geoff said what drove him to design the mechanism was years of working on the frontline, helping fight Mother Nature’s flames and witnessing firsthand the extremities of the loss families have endured during bushfires.
“The fires have been affecting local communities in quite a big way. People have to uproot their lives, move out, and lose their properties and livestock,” he said.
“When fires happen, you see the loss of properties, assets and infrastructure. I just thought: ‘there’s got to be a better way to do this’. When we do experience fires – like at the moment – it’s too dangerous for ground crews to go in and physically spray structures, because when they go in there’s risk to them getting out. That’s when I came up with the idea to do it from an aircraft. That’s when the quest started.”
The fire retardant 'Fire Limit' is being sprayed by the helicopter around properties along the NSW South Coast to help protect homes. The biodegradable, non-toxic fire retardant can safeguard a property for up to two weeks.
“It’s great to see NRMA come on board with a small company like ours in a joint venture to bring this capability to market,” he said. “The NSW RFS and NSW communities get this capability free of charge thanks to NRMA – regardless of if you’re insured or who you’re insured with. NRMA don’t discriminate and this capability is here to help everyone.”
When it comes to the helicopter’s operational decisions, the RFS call the shots, including when and where it’s deployed and how the fire retardant will be used to ensure it helps communities most in need of protection. Since November 2019, the helicopter has flown more than 300 hours to help dedicated firefighters and vulnerable communities.
Living in a fire prone area, Geoff spoke about the importance of preparing for bushfires and having a plan in place to stay proactive in unprecedented events.
“Our family are quite aware of what’s going on around us and we certainly monitor the conditions and have a plan on what to do if it does reach our location,” he enthused.
“I know it’s hard for people to leave their homes, but you’ve got to think, is it better to live to see another day or to be left in a pile of ashes after it.”
Geoff said when it comes to help, it’s engrained into Australian culture, especially in times of need.
“I think it’s long been part of the Australian spirit. When the chips are down or there’s been a disaster everyone bands together and helps out. You only have to look at where the fires have ravaged through the north of the state. Those communities have rallied, and people have come from far and wide to help.”
If you’re an NRMA Insurance customer impacted by bushfires, please call us on 13 11 23 so we can help.