Bushfires burning in Gippsland, 18,000 still without power

Bushfires burning in Gippsland, 18,000 still without power

30 January 2009

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — Firefighters are battling fierce bushfires in eastern Victoria, while about 18,000 homes are still without power.

As the mercury soared above 40C for the third day in a row in Victoria, firefighters are battling to contain two fires burning out of control in Delburn and Darlimurla, near Traralgon in the state’s east.

And about 18,000 homes are still without power as the system struggles to cope with soaring temperatures and massive demand.

CFA spokesman Guy Sigley said the Gippsland blazes, which are only 2km apart and are threatening to merge, have burnt through more than 2100ha.

He said communities in Mirboo North, Yinnar and Boolarra had been warned to be ready to activate their fire plans with conditions expected to deteriorate this afternoon.

More than 200 firefighters, 70 tankers, 12 bulldozers and 18 aircraft – including one Erikson aircrane – have been deployed to battle the blaze.

Another 50 firefighters are also fighting a fire in Endeavour Hills which began after a car caught fire and the flames spread to surrounding paddocks.  The fire has burnt through 5ha so far.

Victoria is experiencing record temperatures, with Friday being the third day in a row that the temperature gauge has topped 40C.

National Electricity Market Management Company (NEMMCO) was forced to ask suppliers to cut power to hundreds of thousands of homes on Thursday as the grid struggled to cope with demand.

As a result, power use soared as people cranked up air conditioners.

The heat has also caused transformers and fuses to blow, creating supply issues.

About 16,000 customers of Jemena, Alinta and United Energy, which cover south-eastern metropolitan areas and the north-west of Melbourne were still without power, spokesman John Kingsley-Jones said.

“Crews are working pretty much flat out to repair the damage caused by heat,” he said.

“It looks like the system is holding up pretty well given the circumstances because we’re still experiencing record temperatures.”

SP Ausnet spokeswoman Natasha Whalley said about 1,400 customers were without power, mainly in the outer northern and outer eastern metropolitan areas.

“Crews are working on these isolated street level faults as quickly as possible, which have mostly been caused by fuses and transformers overheating,” she said.

It’s anticipated those repairs would be completed by late on Friday, but more problems are expected as temperatures remain high over the weekend.

Citipower and PowerCor have just under 700 customers without power.

Spokesman Ryan Auger said faults are being resolved on a rotating basis and according to priority.

The system is just not made to cope with the record supply and demand conditions, Mr Auger said.

“Under normal conditions the system is coping very well,” he said.

Power reserves are stretched as Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania all struggle with high temperatures, but NEMMCO said on Thursday power reserves should manage.

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