Largest bushfire still ‘out of control’

Largest bushfire still ‘out of control’

28 December 2006

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Australia — Firefighters are celebrating the containment of a bushfire threatening towns in Victoria’s northeast, but the state’s largest blaze continues to burn out of control.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) spokesman Kevin Monk said the Tawonga Gap fire was contained last night at 32,000 hectares.

At its worst, the blaze put residents around Bright and Mount Beauty on high alert.

Mr Monk said the 800,000-hectare fire raging through bushland in the Great Divide remained largely out of control and firefighters were using cooler conditions to strengthen control lines.

The deliberately-lit fire at Coopers Creek, which led to the death of a Gippsland man, is also uncontained and has now burned 35,000 hectares.

Mr Monk said the rain that swept the state over Christmas helped quell many parts of the fires, but they had also made some areas too damp for backburning until today.

Country Fire Authority (CFA) state duty officer John Athorn said up to 40mm fell in the state’s south, which had made access tracks slippery.

Mr Athorn said there was still a heavy fuel load around the fire area and firefighters were focusing efforts on protecting assets around Mount Buller, Dargo and Mount Buffalo, and the Upper Thompson catchment area.

“The last few days, since we have had the rainfall, there’s been a lot of work done (strengthening control lines),” he said.

“There’s a lot of heavy fuel within the fire perimeter and it would take significantly more rain to put those out.”

With drier conditions, more backburning will be conducted, he said.

Thirty five Northern Territory firefighters arrived in Melbourne today and will bolster efforts around Dargo and Swifts Creek.

About 600 DSE and CFA firefighters and support staff remain on the fire front. Those numbers will be boosted over the coming days ahead of forecast higher temperatures.

Mr Athorn reminded all Victorians of the continuing bushfire threat.

“People still need to be aware that the rest of the state has got a high fire danger, so people still need to be careful,” he said.

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