Forecast rain brings fire relief

Forecast rain brings fire relief

20 December 2006

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Australia — Rain is forecast to fall across Victoria from late tomorrow,bringing relief to fire authorities.

The Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) said it could bringthe most rain since bushfires broke out across the state’s north and east almosttwo weeks ago.

A string of fires has so far burnt about 750,000ha, DSE spokesman Stuart Ordsaid.

Several Gippsland towns would again come under threat when the winds turnednortherly tomorrow, he said.

”(But) the weather bureau are saying there’s a chance the northerlies willbring some moisture from way up in Queensland … their models are saying yepthere’s a very, very good chance of some rain coming in with this change,” MrOrd said.

“It won’t put the fire out – we would need substantial rain to put thisfire out – so what it will do is damp down the fire for some time.”

He said 4300 firefighters were involved today in creating new fire breaks andconsolidating existing ones to protect towns try to contain the fires.

Rain over the following 48 hours would help greatly, Mr Ord said.

“It will allow us to get into the fire edge and put in good containmentlines or further containment lines.”

Many of the fires have merged, claiming a broad swathe of bushland spanningthe Great Dividing Range in Victoria’s east and also the Alpine National Park.

Tomorrow’s strong and gusting winds were expected to put towns south of theblaze – such as Heyfield and Briagolong – under threat.

Dargo remains surrounded by fire on three sides while another blaze isburning within 1km from houses in Walhalla.

“The last report is that it is about 500m away but it is backing down ahill, so it is burning reasonably slowly,” Mr Ord said.

“There is no guarantee the fire won’t get into the town tomorrow whenthe winds start to swirl a bit.”

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