Australia — East Gippsland residents faced terror fire conditions yesterday,as the skies turned red and ember attacks caused spot fires throughout theregion.
But an earlier-than-expected wind change, and more than 1000 determinedfirefighters, managed to save the day for dozens of towns along the south andeast flanks of a large fire.
Strong winds and temperatures in the high 30s still gave fire crews plenty tosweat over, and broken containment lines mean the threat is far from gone, withextreme conditions expected again as early as Tuesday.
DSE incident controller Dennis Matthews described yesterday as “the dayof reckoning”.
“We’ve had a very difficult day today, with spots coming out everywhereand the fire getting a long run,” Mr Matthews said.
Thick smoke early in the morning meant fire surveillance and aerial bombingwas tough.
“We’ve been unable to see where the fire’s been through most of the day we still have to work out where it’s gone, and it will probably take anotherday and night to work out where we’re at,” Mr Matthews said.
At Bruthen, northeast of Bairnsdale, Laurie and Diane Hodge had been watchingthe fire approaching for weeks.
Yesterday, they were happy their Great Alpine Hwy home was prepared butwould be happier to see the back of the fire season. “I hate fires, and I’msick of this one,” Mr Hodge said.
The farmer has been driving graders for the past six weeks, helping buildcontainment lines from Valencia Creek and Briagolong across to Boulder Creek,and all around his Bruthen home.
But the fast-moving fire had no problems breaking containment lines to thewest of the Great Alpine Hwy yesterday morning, with embers travellingkilometres ahead of the main blaze to start spot fires near Tambo Crossing,Swifts Creek and Ensay.
Embers also showered towns including Heyfield, Seaton, Briagolong and CliftonCreek.
About 3pm, Great Alpine Hwy towns Swifts Creek, Ensay, Ensay South and Omeowere alerted to retardant being dumped through the tinder-dry forest region, tocombat continuous ember attacks and spot fires.
Late in the afternoon, Waterholes and Ward’s Crossing were put on immediatealert after the change turned ember attacks on several homes.
“We’ve got some fairly nervous people in the area it’s come infairly hard with the southwesterly change, we’ve had a significant number ofspots join,” Mr Matthews said.