HAS anyone seen Elvis - the water bombing helicopter, that is?
As Victoria sweltered through its first total fire ban day of the bushfire season yesterday, the state's front-line fire-fighting helicopter was nowhere to be seen.
Despite the State Government's promise that the Erickson aircrane helicopter would be operational this week, it remains in transit from the US with the Government refusing to say when it will arrive.
Last month while inspecting fire preparations, Environment Minister Gavin Jennings was less coy about the helicopter's arrival.
While praising its firefighting ability, the minister said it ''would be on the job from the third week of November''.
''The Elvis aircraft is an important weapon in combating fires and having it on stand-by earlier will be a bonus for Victorians,'' he said.
The helicopter is expected to be unloaded from the cargo ship Cap Reinga at Swanson Dock today and be available to firefighters from early next week.
The helicopter can carry 9000 litres of water.
The United Firefighters Union said it was irresponsible and incompetent that Elvis was missing in action with the state under fire threat and communities still recovering from Black Saturday.
''The State Government is saying they are doing everything possible to make Victoria fire safe, yet they can't even get the timing right to deliver the flagship of the firefighting aircraft fleet,'' the union's national secretary, Peter Marshall, said.
When speaking about Victoria's fire readiness earlier this week, Mr Brumby said: "There has never been a greater effort to make our state as fire-safe and as fire-ready as possible.''
Yesterday Mr Jennings' spokesman, Lyall Johnson, said the helicopter would be deployed a month earlier than last year and would arrive in Victoria ''shortly''.
He said fire authorities believed there were an adequate number of firefighting aircraft available for this time of the fire season, with 32 aircraft it can deploy quickly and a further 170 aircraft on call.
A second Erickson aircrane is due to arrive in Victoria in mid-December, with the Government to trial the use of a fire-bombing DC10 aeroplane, capable of dumping 70,000 litres in one load, early next year.
Opposition bushfires spokesman Peter Ryan said the Elvis situation was another example of the Government failing to meet one of its own bushfires commitments.
''Being late is just not good enough in the current environment,'' he said. ''It undermines people's confidence in the Government's capacity to deliver on its promises.''
Meanwhile, parts of Victoria will remain on alert today, with severe fire danger forecast for districts along the New South Wales border.
On Wednesday night Melbourne endured the highest temperature for a November night with 28.1 degrees at midnight. This exceeded the previous record by almost 2 degrees.
''The previous minimum was 26.2 degrees set on November 25, 1901, so it's a record warm November and by a significant margin,'' Bureau of Meteorology senior forecaster Phil King said.
The record-breaking November heat was due to a strong high pressure system over the Tasman, which has blocked cooler fronts from making it to the mainland.
''As a result, the whole continent has heated up,'' climate meteorologist Harvey Stern said. Mr Stern said it was a pattern that usually occurred in January, February or early autumn but it was a rare event in November.
The northerly winds that transported the heat through hot air from inland Australia had dominated for the past couple of weeks, he said.
A cool change is expected for Melbourne this weekend, with temperatures forecast to drop into the 20s across the state.
The change is also forecast to bring rain - up to 30 millimetres in the north-east and northern parts of the state and as much as 10 millimetres for Melbourne. The city's forecast high today is 34 degrees, with northern parts of the state such as Swan Hill, Albury-Wodonga and Echuca in for a 40-degree day.
Bushfires were burning in two states yesterday with conditions unlikely to improve today.
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