Snow to bring bushfire relief

Snow to bring bushfire relief

22 December 2006

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Australia — Snow is forecast in bushfire-ravaged areas of Victoria forChristmas Day, in a “crazy” twist for firefighters who have beenbattling blazes in the alpine region for weeks.

Temperatures over 30 degrees Celsius and wind gusts of up to 100km/h aretoday fanning the massive bushfires which have placed dozens of communities atrisk in Victoria’s north, north-east and east.

But the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) says the four-dayweather forecast holds some relief for the 4600 emergency personnel who havebeen battling the fires and building containment lines.

“This will be the test of those (containment lines) today,” DSEspokesman Duncan Pendrigh said.

“But the good news is there is some rain coming, and it will be reallycold on Christmas Day. Maybe even some snow, so it’s crazy.”

The Bureau of Meteorology confirmed it was forecasting up to 15mm of rain -the biggest rain dump this month – would follow a south-westerly changepredicted to hit the state’s fire-ravaged east from late today or tonight.

A cold stream of air would follow the rainy change, and the bureau said itwas expected to produce a light dusting of snow on Mount Buller, and otheralpine peaks, on Monday, Christmas Day.

“It’s an interesting twist,” Mr Pendrigh said of the prospect ofsnow.

“But it will give us a rest, though, which is good.”

He said all communities to the south and east of the fires should remain onhigh alert today, while Mount Buller village also was expected to come underember attack.

“Mount Buller village is a major concern, we have a lot of protectionaround that, but the fire is going to go up Mount Buller most likely today,”Mr Pendrigh said.

Dargo in Gippsland, which is surrounded by bushfires, would come underpressure today, as would communities in Matlock and Woods Point, he said.

The fires, many of which have been burning since December 1, have left oneman dead, destroyed more than 30 houses and burnt out 830,000 hectares ofbushland.

The affected region covers much of the state’s east, spans the Great DividingRange and also takes in much of the Alpine National Park.

On the fire front today, there were about 350 visiting firefighters from theACT, NSW and New Zealand.

The kiwi firefighters will return home tomorrow, but a fresh contingent isdue to arrive in Victoria in the first week of January.

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