Alert as Tassie set to swelter

Alert as Tassie set to swelter

27 January 2009

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Australia — Tasmania Fire Service crews will closely monitor several bushfires as they prepare for hot, dry days.

The weather bureau warns of high fire danger for the state today and tomorrow, with temperatures in the South-East and Derwent Valley tipped to hit 31C.

Hobart will swelter in 30C heat today and tomorrow.

Acting chief officer Tony Davidson last night said the TFS, Forestry Tasmania and Parks and Wildlife would meet this morning to assess the statewide threat.

“We are heading into a three-day heatwave and although we do not expect high winds it is extreme fire weather conditions,” he said.

Two major bushfires raging in the state’s North at Rossarden and Epping Forest were a worry if winds flared up as they did last week.

However, firefighters were yesterday optimistic they could have a potentially disastrous fire near Rossarden throttled before tomorrow’s forecast hot northerly winds.

Forestry Tasmania fire operations manager Peter Williams said forecast temperatures exceeding 35C coupled with 20km/h winds had the potential to create headaches.

Mr Williams said he didn’t see the Rossarden fire response as a desperate race against time — it was instead a carefully planned strategy to ring-fence the fire.

It involved surrounding the fire, in steep inaccessible terrain, with bulldozed containment lines, with cleared safety zones every 300-500m for firefighters to retreat to.

Mr Williams said conditions yesterday were favourable for backburning.

Backburning had expanded the fire area to about 2000ha.

He said under tomorrow’s forecast conditions the fire, unchecked, could travel as fast as half a kilometre an hour with an average flame height of about 10m, with a potential spotting distance of about 1.8km.

The TFS urged people to take precautions and said extra care should be taken with cutting tools and machinery that could cause sparks. Campfires should be fully extinguished.

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