Online map spotlights fire risks

Great Eastern Hwy still closed after fires

7 January 2008

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Australia — It is still too risky to reopen the section of the Great Eastern Highway that last week claimed the lives of three drivers, say authorities.

The road remains closed after devastating bushfires throughout West Australia’s Goldfields region. 

Department of Environment and Conservation spokesman Nigel Higgs said opening the road is still a few days with two 40C days ahead not going to make containing the fires any easier.

“The hot weather coming up over the next couple of days will test the boundaries. We’ll see how things go after that and a decision to keep the section shut or open it up will be up to the incident control team,” Mr Higgs said.

The federal member for Kalgoorlie Barry Haase has called for the highway to be reopened.

Mr Haase said that despite detours the road closure was proving costly to interstate freight trade and the government should act to reopen it now.

“Where are they going to draw the line, will they wait until the fire’s burnt to Leonora?” Mr Haase told ABC Radio.

Acting Premier Eric Ripper says it is up to fire authorities to make the decision.
DEC Kalgoorlie Incident Controller Peter Keppel said the Boorabbin National Park fire was contained south of the highway but remained out of control to the north.

About 130 firefighters have been using bulldozers, graders and front end loaders to build northern containment lines.

“We could have significant breakouts in the northern end of the fire,” Mr Keppel“We could get a fire run parallel to the existing fire to the southeast, which could potentially breach the highway.

“That is our major concern, that’s the concern from a safety perspective of people potentially using the highway, and also for fire suppression effort.”

The fire has burned more than 41,000 hectares of bush.

The DEC has brought in extra heavy machinery to cut bare earth firebreaks around the fire, while more than 100 firefighters continue to battle the huge blaze in the region today.

Mr Higgs said it is still unsafe to reopen the Great Eastern Highway because the fire still poses a threat from the north.

“The decision will be made in an assessment to the risk, but right now, it’s still too early to reopen the road,” Mr Higgs said.

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