Victoria, Australia — The State Government is runningbehind in this year’s program to reduce bushfire fuel, with the prolonged fireseason leaving only a small window of opportunity for burn-offs.
After weekend rain helped ease the bushfire risk, Department ofSustainability and Environment fire chief Ewan Waller said burn-offs across thestate would be increased in the next few weeks.
If favourable weather continues, about 130 burn-offs totalling 20,000hectares have been planned for the next week alone.
While more than 70 burn-offs have been lit already this year, Mr Waller saidthat because of the dry conditions most had been small and close to towns andsettlements to protect critical assets.
“We would have liked to be burning more already,” he said. “We’reprobably two or three weeks behind where we want to be.”
Burn-offs in grassland around Melbourne’s water catchments and areas in theOtways, Grampians, Croajingolong, and Murray-Sunset national parks are some ofthe priorities this year.
More than 20 fuel-reduction burns were under way in Victoria yesterday. Oneof the largest was a 1037-hectare fire in the Bete Bolong state forest in EastGippsland.
Residents and holiday makers may encounter smoky conditions, with the programto continue during Easter and school holidays.
An ill-fated burn-off at Wilsons Promontory in April 2005, which jumpedcontainment lines, blackened 6200 hectares of bushland and forced the evacuationof 600 campers, prompted the Government to boost resources and introduce newsafety measures.
Mr Waller said there would be few burns around major holiday spots this year.
“If the weather’s with us, we’ll go right through into winter, and thenpick it up again in earnest in spring,” he said.
A spokesman for Environment Minister John Thwaites said some of the extraresources in the lead-up to the summer bushfires would stay on and help with theburn-off program.