Army kept out of SA bushfire fight

Army kept out of SA bushfire fight

10 December 2007

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Australia — Authorities have decided against declaring a state of emergency on Kangaroo Island, as bushfires burn off the South Australian coast.

Three fires remain out of control, after lightning sparked a string of blazes in bushland last week.

More than 100 reinforcement firefighters will travel to SA from interstate, along with an extra fire bombing aircraft and surveillance planes.

SA Police Commissioner Mal Hyde says authorities have decided against a declaration that would have seen the army move in as the Country Fire Service (CFS) is coping with the situation.

“At this stage it’s not a resource issue. The CFS have some standing arrangements in place and it’s a fairly large logistical exercise because it’s going to be a fairly sustained operation,” he said.

“Things that might call for a declaration are in terms of protecting the community.”

Kangaroo Island Mayor Jane Bates says it would be easier to manage firefighting resources under a state of emergency.

“This is an Island and it’s very difficult to move resources quickly to the island so I think having them on the island in preparation in case things do go wrong is a wise move,” she said.

Brenton Eden from the CFS says the biggest fire is in Flinders Chase national park at the western end of the island.

“Each of the fires on Kangaroo Island has increased in size,” he said.

“They’re between 5,000 hectares and 9,000 hectares at the moment.

“Each of these fires is of such significant size that they do pose a threat to communities and residences in their path.”

Worsening forecast, warns CFS

He says cooler weather with more moisture in the air has been helping firefighting efforts but it is feared that conditions could worsen in coming days.

“By Friday we’ll have temperatures back in the mid 30s and we’ll have strong northerly winds, so we’ll be approaching the conditions during which these fires started,” he said.

The weather bureau has sent mobile weather stations to the Kangaroo Island to help improve forecasting.

Senior forecaster Matt Collopy says three stations have been sent and another is on its way.

“[They] measure the wind, the humidity and the temperature right there at the fire site and then the information gets relayed back to the weather bureau here [in Adelaide] and also the CFS,” he said.

“So it gives us a really good on the ground idea of exactly what’s happening and then we can liaise with them and work out the best approach to containing the fires.”

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