Vic Govt boosts firefighting funds

Vic Govt boosts firefighting funds

11 December 2006

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Australia — This is a transcript from PM.
MARK COLVIN: There are renewed concerns in Victoria about bushfires burning inthe state’s east, north-east and west this evening.

A cool change brought fire fighters and residents a brief respite last night andearly today, but strong winds and lightning strikes are now causing problems insome areas.

It’s expected that many of the fires will burn for weeks, or even months.

That’s led the Victorian Government to promise an extra $27 million to boostfire-fighting resources this afternoon.

Samantha Donovan reports.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: It’s been another day of watching and waiting for Victoriansliving in areas threatened by the bushfires.

After sweltering heat yesterday, temperatures have dropped dramatically today…but that’s brought strong winds and lightning strikes to some parts of the state.

Graham Fountain is from the Country Fire Authority.

GRAHAM FOUNTAIN: We’ve had further wind changes today, and quite erratic windsin and around the fire areas, including down in the south-west, at the Stonyfordfire, which caused that to break containment lines.

But we’re still experiencing very strong 30 kilometre winds in the fire areas aswe speak, and that’s caused some erratic fire behaviour, some increases in thefire activity, to the point where additional threat messages to the communitiesconcerned have been issued.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: Are they mainly in the east, in Gippsland?

GRAHAM FOUNTAIN: Threat messages exist currently right throughout the north-eastand Gippsland fire areas, and as the forecast wind direction changes again latertoday and this evening, it could push that fire into communities which havepreviously been under threat over the last few days.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: What then are you expecting tonight and tomorrow?

GRAHAM FOUNTAIN: Well, tonight and tomorrow we’re going to try to continuallystrengthen and reinforce our containment lines in and around these fires aheadof further deteriorating weather later in the week.

Today we’ve been working extensively with more community meetings in and aroundthese areas.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: How are resources holding up at this stage?

GRAHAM FOUNTAIN: The CFA (Country Fire Authority) and DSE (Department ofSustainability and Environment) resources, we’ve got over 4,000 fire fighters onthe line, with the support of interstate resources from the New South WalesRural Fire Service and the ACT Rural Fire Service.

We’ve got the contingent from New Zealand helping us, the specialist alpine firefighters. And of course our own local fire fighters and support agencies.

We’re extremely conscious of the fatigue. This is early in the season. Even ifthese fires were extinguished overnight, which isn’t likely, then we’ve stillgot a long, hot summer fire season ahead of us.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The strain on resources is clear in the Gippsland town ofMaffra.

The Country Fire Authority there has taken a recently restored 1929 fire engineout of the local motor museum and has it on standby.

Ron Pitt is from the Maffra CFA.

RON PITT: It’s our backup-backup-backup (laughs). It’s a fantastic thing todrive – no doors, the breeze rushing through, yeah, if a little spot fire occursand our other units are busy, I mean, we have got 400 gallons of water in thepump, and a crew that can operate it.

SAMANTHA DONOVAN: The Gippsland town of Dargo has been under threat from nearbyfires for the last couple of days.

Alison Sharp is only the only nurse employed at the local Bush Nursing Centre.

She’s treated a couple of fire fighters and locals over the last few days forsmoke related illnesses.

But she says it’s mainly been a quiet and tense wait as the fires approach.

ALISON SHARP: It’s a peculiar mixture, I suppose, of sheer frustration andtiredness. It’s exhausting just sitting around waiting for something to happen.

And it’d be nice if it did happen and we got it over and done with, sort ofthing, but you can’t make it do anything. So you just sit and you wait.

And everybody’s a bit tense, but we’re all trying to deal with it as best we can.

MARK COLVIN: Nurse Alison Sharp from Dargo in Eastern Victoria.

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