Garden state in grips of bushfire crisis: Bracks

Garden state in grips of bushfire crisis: Bracks

17 January 2007

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Victoria, Australia — Victoria is in the grip of the one of the worst bushfire crises in the state’s history, Premier Steve Bracks has warned.

The premier has cut short his holiday and returned to work after a fire in north-east Victoria cut transmission lines yesterday and sparked blackouts across the state.

Today, Mr Bracks attended a briefing with Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin and Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon.

The meeting was told the next three days were critical and conditions were expected to be even worse on Saturday than they were yesterday, when eight houses were lost and temperatures soared into the 40s, Mr Bracks said.

“When I came back in this morning and had the briefing and learned that Saturday was going to be worse than yesterday, it just sends shivers up your spine because we all saw how bad yesterday was,” he said.

“I think it will go down as one of our worst bushfire episodes in Victoria ever, and that’s saying something in the state that had the 1939 fires, the 1983 fires and even the 2002/03 fires.

“This is the worst bushfire conditions we have ever had in Victoria’s history because it is going to go on and it is going to get worse.

“We have never encountered this in Victoria before.

“This is 48 days … of fire activity and one million hectares which have been burnt, and of course we are bracing ourselves for some very, very tough conditions.”

Hot weather predicted for the rest of the week in Victoria will hamper efforts to end the crisis, a fire authority spokesman said today.

Lightning started several blazes overnight and further strikes are expected to spark other fires, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) emergency control centre spokesman Pat Groenhout said.

“We expect that we will see a few more as the day progresses and the conditions warm up, so we’re looking to jump on those as quickly as possible with water bombers and crews, and to get containment lines around them,” he said.

“We’ve got, basically, hot conditions right through to the weekend now.

“It will be very difficult for us to get containment lines in and to do something active about these very large fires burning in dry conditions.”

Victoria’s current bushfire crisis began on December 1, when lightning sparked a series of devastating blazes in eastern Victoria.

About two million hectares of bush were razed and 71 people died in the Black Friday bushfires, which began on Friday, January 13, 1939.

The Ash Wednesday bushfires killed 75 people in Victoria and South Australia, beginning on February 16, 1983.

The 2002/03 alpine bushfires tore through 1.3 million hectares of mountain country in Victoria alone.

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