Bushfire jumps Vic containment lines

Bushfirejumps Vic containment lines

18 December 2006

published by www.thewest.com.au

Australia — Severalnorth-east Victorian towns are under threat after a bushfire jumped containmentlines and blustery conditions put firefighters on high alert.

Fire authorities issued several urgent threat messages for bushfires ragingout of control in the state’s alpine region, urging residents to activate fireplans.

A Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman said theBright/Tawonga Gap blaze crossed the Buckland Valley Road late on Mondayafternoon and freshening winds drove it east towards Bright and Porepunkah.

The massive Great Divide fire jumped containment lines at Sheepyard Flat,near Mansfield, about 4pm (AEDT) on Monday and residents in the area have beenwarned to expect ember attacks.

Further south, residents of Walhalla and Maidentown were put on alert after asouth-westerly wind change at 5pm pushed the deliberately-lit Coopers Creek firetowards the remote towns.

“As the wind change gets closer the wind will become more unpredictableand may gust strongly,” the spokesman said.

The three major blazes engulfing the state have now burned some 750,000hectares.

Firefighters also battled a new outbreak at Shepparton in the state’s north.

A Country Fire Authority (CFA) spokeswoman said the grass and scrub firebroke out about 6pm. Three aircraft and 21 trucks are at the scene.

Meanwhile, cooler conditions in Gippsland allowed firefighters to burn offand also construct containment lines ahead of the south-east fire fronts.

However, Gippsland regional fire coordinator Tony Edgar said efforts tocontain a blaze spreading north-east of Dargo was proving very difficult.

“Concerns for the safety of firefighters, difficult terrain andtinder-dry conditions have forced us to concentrate efforts in this area onprotecting private properties rather than containing fire on public land,”he said.

Earlier on Monday, fire authorities launched an investigation into how agroup of New Zealand firefighters were injured fighting Victorian fires.

Eleven New Zealand firefighters suffered burns and smoke inhalation as theyfought a spot fire near Mansfield on Saturday.

The trapped men took refuge in a ditch and the flames roared over their heads.They were rescued later by a helicopter.

Three of the men – Nick McCabe, Barrie Hunt and John Tupura – remain in TheAlfred hospital’s burns unit. They are suffering mainly from superficial faceand hand injuries.

But one of them had been scheduled for surgery on Monday afternoon on a deephand burn.

A CFA spokeswoman later said the fire at Shepparton got within 60m of homeson the outskirts of town but no property was damaged.

She said there were about 40 CFA and DSE trucks and some 150 firefightersbattling the blaze, together with two waterbombing planes.

The fire, which burned about 20 hectares, was contained several hours later.

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