VICTORIA’S two water-carrying air cranes have been grounded after a crash in East Gippsland overnight.
But the fleet of 49 firefighting choppers will remain in the air as fire conditions deteriorate over the coming days.
The crash occurred on late on Monday when the air crane ditched into a dam near the small town of Jericho.
The two pilots and an engineer, who were inside the aircraft when it crashed into the water, were able to swim to safety to the edge of the dam.
The water-bombing air crane landed in the dam during operations over the Thomson Complex Catchment fires in Gippsland, a State Control Centre spokeswoman said.
Investigations are continuing as to the cause of the accident, however, there are unconfirmed reports the aircraft might have flipped while scooping out water.
Authorities said the air crane had been involved in "fire suppression activities" for several days and was one of 10 aircraft working on the fire.
Speaking on radio on Tuesday morning, Emergency Management Victoria commissioner Andrew Crisp said he was relieved that the crew had managed to swim to safety.
He said investigations were continuing into the accident.
“Just to confirm – the grounding only applies to air cranes. Victoria has two of these types of helicopters. We still have a significant number of helicopters and aeroplanes that will continue to work on fires today,” Mr Crisp said.
On Monday, a chopper based in Ballarat assisted during a two-hectare blaze that broke out in scrub land east of Mount Egerton.
Forecasts for Tuesday and Wednesday remain in the mid to high 30s with very high fire danger throughout the state, rising to severe on Wednesday in the south-west, western and Mallee districts before a cool change hits on Wednesday night.
The fire danger warning will remain very high for the northern country district, which encompasses Bendigo, until Friday when it drops to high.
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