Australia — The massive Hermit Mountain bushfire in Victoria’s northeast wasdeclared contained on Wednesday night, 19 days after it started, authoritiessaid.
The blaze has burnt out an estimated 5,000 hectares – over half of which ison the Victorian side of the border with NSW – since it started on January 12.
Firefighting crews were continue to make excellent progress in mopping up andhad secured the fire edge, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE)incident controller Rob Caddell said.
“Today, no hot spots were detected by infra-red and if this is confirmedagain tomorrow we intend to declare the fire under control,” he said.
Local crews, together with American and Canadian firefighters, were stillworking closely in all aspects of managing the fire, Mr Caddell added.
Earlier today, authorities admitted a backburning operation gone wrong wasthe “most probable” cause of the fire that destroyed a Victorian skilodge.
A firefighter shift change which left the Cresta Valley Ski Lodge, on MountBuffalo, unattended for several hours is also blamed for allowing the firstburning embers to take hold and burn the lodge to the ground.
The building was destroyed in mid-December as fires raged across the state’snortheast, and the DSE and Country Fire Authority (CFA) said today theyregretted its loss.
“We are deeply disappointed that Cresta Lodge has been lost during thefire fight. We know it was a special place for many locals and visitors,”DSE Chief Fire Officer Ewan Waller said in the statement.
“Backburning helps us protect assets but, as we’ve all seen this season,fire can be unpredictable and uncontrollable.”
A preliminary report into the blaze concluded the probable cause to be embersor burning material crossing the line or falling from the slope behind Cresta asa result of the asset protection burn.
The report had yet to be finalised but Mr Waller said it would becomeavailable to the public within weeks.
Meantime, Tourism Alliance Victoria (TAV) said a $3.7 million touristrecovery package unveiled by the state government must be spent on areas whichthe industry considered a priority.
“Businesses, families and communities have been impacted in differentways by the fires,” TAV chief executive Nicholas Hunt said.
“Tourism businesses have been in steady contact with our organisationregarding the assistance they need.”