Firefighting costs ablaze, audit finds

Fire crews prepare for hotter weather

18 December 2006

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Australia– Victorian fire crews continued to backburn and shore up containment lines inGippsland and the state’s north-east overnight on Sunday, before temperaturesclimb later this week.

The fires have burnt more than 680,000 hectares of bush, with the blaze atMount Terrible, near Kevington, blackening 310,000 hectares.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) co-ordinator Paul Batessaid fire crews were preparing for worsening weather conditions on Wednesday andThursday.

“While conditions remain mild, we are working around the clock to ensurethe fires will have no chance to break away under the influence of highertemperatures and renewed winds,” he said.

“That means making sure any advancing fire front runs into fire breaksand areas where we have already burnt the available fuel.

“In the meantime, there are indications of increased fire activityaround Mt Hotham and Falls Creek, and we are directing more resources intosuppressing that.”

Through Sunday night, fire crews worked on protecting private property inJamieson and Kevington, and backburning in the Merrijig area.

On Monday they plan to backburn in Woods Point, Matlock, and Jamieson.

Meanwhile in Tasmania

Residents of the Tasmanian coastal town of Bicheno are on high alert onMonday as a bushfire rages 20 kilometres to the north.

With hot temperatures and strong winds forecast, the blaze, which sweptthrough Scamander and St Mary’s last week, could jump containment lines and burnthrough the Douglas Apsley National Park.

“Once it has entered the national park, there’s not much we can do. It’srugged and inaccessible,” Danny Reid from the Tasmanian Fire Service’s firemanagement unit said on Monday.

The fire has burnt out 23,000 hectares and continues to rage in inhospitablebushland, creating difficult firefighting conditions.

Reid said it, and a second 10,000-hectare fire at Kellevie, east of Hobart,were expected to burn for some time.

The St Mary’s-Scamander fire has been held back by Elephant Pass, a majoraccess road, but firefighters believe Monday’s hot windy conditions will see theblaze jump the road and enter the national park.

A community meeting was held on Sunday, and a letterbox drop has warnedresidents of homes on the coastal strip between Bicheno and Elephant Pass to beprepared.

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