Bracks visits fire-ravaged towns

Bracks visits fire-ravaged towns

11 December 2006

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Australia — Erratic winds in the south-western part of Victoria havereinvigorated a fire raging near the towns of Stoneyford and Pomborneit, whereone house was destroyed yesterday.

Cooler conditions helped firefighters bring the 2000-hectare blaze under controlovernight, but strong westerly winds pushed the fire through containmentlines today.

The fire has now reached Lake Corangamite, and private property and houses inPomborneit, Pomborneit North, Pomborneit East and Stoneyford are now consideredunder immediate threat.

Meanwhile the Bracks Government has today pledged an extra $27 million towardsfirefighting efforts.

The money will boost the Department of Sustainability and Environment’s totalfire budget for the year to $150 million.

Premier Steve Bracks said the money would be used to fund an extra 100 localfirefighters over summer, up to 150 New Zealand firefighters, and possibly50 management and air support specialists from the United States.

Current threats

Mr Bracks said the current fires burning across Victoria posed a threat topeople and property in areas spanning half a million hectares.

Burns Bridge residents are reported to have come under ember attack this morning,while the nearby communities of Gaffney’s Creek and the A1 Mine Settlementremain under imminent threat as a fire front approaches.

The DSE and CFA advise residents in the Tawonga and Tawonga South area that afire is travelling on the northern side of Tawonga Gap Road. This fire has thepotential to cause spot fires and ember attacks.

Several uncontained fires near Heyfield in Gippsland continue to keepfirefighters busy, but are not posing an immediate threat to private property.

Roads to the townships of Licola and Dargo remain closed.

Bid to save water catchments

Timber workers are sending a convoy of heavy machinery to protect Melbourne’smajor water catchments from the bushfires in the state’s north and east.

Ten bulldozers, excavators and other earth clearing machinery will join 80machines working to strengthen control lines protecting property from bushfiresacross the state.

The 10 machines are being sent to clear a containment area around the UpperYarra and Thomson catchments.

The catchments provide up to 90 per cent of Melbourne’s drinking water.

Tasmanian blaze claims house

A house has been destroyed by a bushfire burning out of control in Tasmania’snorth-east.

An unoccupied house in Lohreys Road, Dublin Town, was razed last night asfirefighters battled to contain the bushfire north of St Marys.

Firefighters saved a second house, also in Lohreys Road, but a workshop, gardenshed and an outside laundry were destroyed, police said.

Tasmania Fire Service and Forestry Tasmania crews are attempting to contain theblaze.

Worst to come

Fire authorities in Victoria plan to take advantage of cooler, calmerconditions today and tomorrow to create and strengthen control lines around 10large fires that have burnt almost 250,000 hectares of Victoria’s bushland overthe past 10 days.

The largest fire burning in the North East Alps is about 50 kilometres long and20 kilometres wide.

The cool change has improved air quality, prompting the EPA to lift its smokeadvisory for suburban Melbourne. However those closest to the fires can expectlow levels of smoke as firefighters work to bring fires under control.

Temperatures in the mid-high 30s and strong northerly winds are again expectedacross Victoria on Thursday and the Department of

Sustainability and Environment and the Country Fire Authority are warning thatVictoria has not seen the worst yet.

Hot, dry conditions mean the current fires are expected to continue burning formonths and the CFA has cautioned that Victoria usually experiences its worstfire weather in January and February.

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