Weather alert as bushfires burn in Victoria’s northeast


Weather alert as bushfires burn in Victoria’s northeast 

18 December 2014

published bywww.heraldsun.com


 Australia — Update: firefighters have managed to stop the spread a large grassfire that had earlier threatened towns in central Victoria, as two other bushfires continue to burn out of control in the state’s northeast.

The CFA and DEPI issued a downgraded advice message for Mia Mia, Redesdale, Meadow Valley, Glenhope, Heathcote, Heathcote South and Argyle at 3pm.

A State Control Centre spokeswoman said firefighters had brought the grassfire under control sometime between 2pm and 3pm.

She said there was no longer a need for residents in the areas to evacuate their homes, but they should continue to monitor the fire.

Smoke will continue to be seen from nearby areas and the Burke and Wills Track will remain closed from Mia Mia Township to Buntings Lane.

The advice message was downgraded from a watch and act alert issued about 12.50pm after firefighters contained the blaze just east of the Burke and Wills Track.

The alert urged resident to evacuate to homes of family and friends clear of the danger area.

It came about an hour after a more severe emergency warning told residents it was too late to leave their homes, as they were in immediate danger from the then out-of-control fire at 11.41am.

Residents in nearby Heathcote South and Argyle are also earlier told to evacuate their homes, as a wind change was expected swing the Mia Mia fire in their direction at 3pm.

This came after the fire crossed the Burke and Wills Track, also known as the Mia Mia-Lancefield Rd, and began moving quickly in a south-easterly direction towards Duncans Lane, Franklins Rd and Randalls Lane in Glenhope about 12.50pm.

A State Control Centre spokesman said at 12.45pm that 20 CFA tankers were battling the Mia Mia fire, with 20 more on the way.

They are being supported by five air bombers, among them “Hercules” and “RJ” — large crafts which both hold more than 12,000L of water.

Crews continue to battle two bushfires near Euroa and Wangaratta amid warm and windy conditions.

A watch and act alert was issued this morning for the 6500ha Longwood-Creightons Creek fire, near Euroa, that destroyed three homes yesterday.

A watch and act alert has also been issued for the 5600ha Lake Rowan, Boweya and Boweya North fire near Wangaratta that destroyed one property, two thousand head of stock and several farm buildings.

Incident Controller Stewart Kreltszheim said two remaining hotspot areas in that fire were identified by a thermal imaging camera in an aircraft overnight, which crews on the ground are monitoring today.

“We’re reasonably comfortable across the top here but this (Warby Range) is probably the weak point in this fire,” he said.

“However, there’s a whole level of comfort that this line will hold.”

Longwood East home owener Simon Crisp said he was relieved firefighters arrived when they did.

“It started to come up the gully and it was only about 100 metres from my home, it had nowhere else to go other than straight up here,” Mr Crisp said.

“I’ve been busy putting out spot fires, the helicopters have contained it but it just kept flaring up.

“I was worried if we didn’t get any support we would be pretty much done.

“Thankfully right on time they arrived – they did an absolute amazing job, I can’t be grateful enough.

“I never thought I would see the day, there’s been fires around us over the past 25 years but never right up to the doorstep.

“The bush will grow back but buildings won’t”.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the way the fires move will depend on winds.

“If they do move, they will move to burn more properties,” he told the Nine Network.

He said while today would have a very high fire danger rating, “it was not an extreme day”.

“But people need to be conscious,” he said.

Wangaratta ICC Incident Controller, Ross Williamson, said the Lake Rowan fire has slowed but would take a few more days to contain.

He said crews were concentrating efforts on two areas of concern within the Warby-Ovens National Park.

The raging blaze at Longwood resulted in more than 120 people being evacuated in Longwood East and a staff Christmas party abandoned at champion racehorse trainer David Hayes’ Creighton Creek property.

About 80 people were evacuated, along with 60 racehorses, while a handful of staff stayed behind to help save the $25 million property and 180 valuable racehorses.

Hayes said his family had worked around the clock to ease the threat of the fire.

“A lot of the property is burnt out so the damage is done. You can’t burn on burnt out areas, so we’re protected,” Hayes said today.

“We’ve evacuated the horses from the section of the property that if the fire turned would affect. We’re not taking any chances as part of our fire plan. But I don’t think it (the fire) will turn to be quite honest.”

He said it was business as usual today.

“Most of the staff, at the highest alert level when we had to evacuate, have volunteered to stay back with me, which is really good,” he said.

“I don’t feel threatened and we’re actually still working the horses. If the wind stays in the right quarter we’ll be fine.”

One of the homes destroyed in the Longwood fire was in Gooram.

The property owners reported each other missing after they were separated, but they were both found.

Three schools were closed because of the 3500ha blaze at Stewarton, east of Shepparton, with 47 students sent home.

The fire that destroyed several farm buildings and many kilometres of fencing is now under control.

Victorian Farmers Federation members are working to help farmers impacted by fire in the state’s northeast find food and pasture for their animals.

The VFF has also negotiated with emergency services to allow farmers to access their fire-affected properties sooner.

Any farmers wishing to access their properties must be accompanied by another able-bodied person, have ID, their Property Identification Code card, protective firefighting equipment including a water tank or pump, chains and a chainsaw for dragging debris and removing trees, a first aid kit, lighting and refreshments.

Granite Hills Winery in the Macedon Ranges saw extensive damage to sheds in a fire east of Kyneton on Monday. Lightning was believed to have caused 350 fires across the state on Monday and Tuesday.
 


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