Townships under ember attack as fires rage

Townships under ember attack as fires rage

7 February 2009

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Australia — Embers are falling on townships which are being threatened by a fierce bushfire which is burning out of control and threatening power lines east of Melbourne.

Fires are raging across Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, with tens of thousands of fire fighters on stand-by across all three states.

The fire in Bunyip State Park is now within a kilometre of major transmission lines that feed power to the Victorian capital.

Victorian fire authorities say the townships of Labertouche and Labertouche North are coming under ember attack and Stuart Ord the Department of Sustainability and Environment says the fire could threaten homes.

“Those communities in particular, Labertouche, Jindivick, Neerim and Tonimbuk, would be seeing smoke at the moment coming from the fire further back,” he said.

“We’re expecting the temperatures to get into the mid-40s today and this afternoon, and we’re expecting the wind speeds to increase, so as that happens, the speed of this fire will increase.”

The Victorian Ambulance Service is evacuating people from aged care homes at Neerim and Bunyip.

Hottest day

Melbourne has already recorded its hottest-ever February day, with the temperature in the city reaching 46 degrees Celsius at 2:27pm (AEDT).

The mercury reached 47.4 degrees at Avalon between Melbourne and Geelong at 2:41pm, while 46.8 degrees was recorded at Laverton.

In regional areas, it reached 46 degrees at Mildura, 46 at Yarrawonga and 45.3 at Aireys Inlet.

Residents of Kilmore East, Wandong and Clonbinane north of Melbourne are on alert, as strong northerly winds fan a fire in the area.

The fire is currently burning three kilometres east of Kilmore, near Saunders Road. The CFA says the fire is gaining strength as it heads towards pine plantations near Wandong.

The Hume Highway has been closed south of Kilmore.

ABC reporter James Bennet says residents in the area have been prepapring for the fire’s arrival.

“Certainly the state here for residents is one of really realising that it is indeed time to go,” he said.

“This fire is extremely close, flames are visible from the hillside and it can’t be too long before the fire will be encroaching on several of these houses.”

More Vic fires

Another fire is burning a kilometre south of Churchill in the Latrobe Valley and is throwing embers and spotfires toward Hazelwood South, Jeeralang, Jeeralang North and Balook. Concerns are also held for Traralgon South.

The CFA has told residents of numerous towns that could be threatened by bushfires to immediately enact their bushfire survival plans.

A fire burning near Coleraine, in Victoria’s south-west, has crossed the Coleraine-Balmoral Road after earlier jumping the Glenelg Highway.

The fire is heading east and residents of Muntham, Coleraine and Hilgay are being warned to be on alert.

A grass fire east of Camperdown is posing a threat to homes on Scollers Road and Caters Roads, as well as the community of Swan Marsh.

The CFA says a blaze on south-east of Churchill in Gippsland could pose a threat to residents of Jerralang, Jerralang North and Jerralang Junction.

A fire is also burning on the southern outskirts of Horsham, in the state’s north-west, and the CFA says people in the communities of Haven, McKenzie Creek and Wonwondah should be patrolling their homes for burning embers.

V-Line has suspended train services on the Warrnambool, Gippsland and Seymour lines because of bushfires.

For information on the Victorian fires call the Country Fire Authority’s information line on 1800 240 667.

Power has been cut to 700 homes across suburban Melbourne, but authorities say they expect it to be restored within hours.

Homes in Brighton, Oakleigh, Parkdale and Templestowe are most affected, with high winds causing damage to power lines.

South Australia

The South Australian Country Fire Service (CFS) says a fire at Gawler River, in Adelaide’s north, is threatening public safety.

The fire started near Wilkinson Road and Gawler River Road and is travelling in a south-easterly direction towards Munno Para, Kudla, Hillier and Angle Vale.

The CFS says smoke and burning embers could threaten people’s safety and property.

The public is being advised not to enter the area as access is restricted.

Wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour are predicted, along with temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius.

It was already 37C in Adelaide at 9:00am ACDT.

More than 10,000 firefighters and 11 water bombers are on stand-by in strategic positions around the state.

One water bomber has already been sent to help contain a forest fire at Nangwarry near Mount Gambier.

National parks at Mount Lofty and on the Fleurieu Peninsula are closed because of the bushfire threat, and Monarto Zoo is also closed.

The SES emergency number is 132 500 and the South Australian Country Fire Service information hotline is 1300 362 361.

New South Wales

A fire in Wollemi National Park in the New South Wales Hunter region has been declared a bushfire emergency.

The Rural Fire Service says three fires which began in the park this morning have joined up, burning about 1,000 hectares of bushland, but it is not threatening any properties.

Forty firefighters and two aircraft have been trying to put the fire out and the emergency declaration will free up more resources.

RFS spokeswoman Rebel Talbert says there are more than 40 fires burning across the state, with particular concern about blazes in Bega Valley, Tumut and the Shoalhaven.

The RFS says a bushfire in the Bega Valley in the state’s far south has crossed containment lines.

The blaze has burnt over 1,000 hectares since it began about a week ago at Jingera Rock.

While it is not currently threatening any properties residents from nearby villages including Towamba, Wyndham and Burragate have been asked to stay prepared.

A spokeswoman says water bombers have been deployed to fight the blaze.

On the central coast Lake Munmorah Park has been closed because of a fire burning there. The New South Wales Rural Fire Service information hotline is 1800 679 737.

A weekend-long total fire ban has been issued in Canberra.

Many of Canberra’s public parks have been closed as a precaution, with gas bottles turned off at public barbeques.

A number of roads in the Namadgi National Park have been closed, while Googong Foreshores will also be closed.

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