Australian bush fires: Victorians warned threat could remain until April

Australian bush fires: Victorians warned threat could remain until April

24 February 2009

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Australia — The ferocious fires of Feb 7 killed at least 210 people, destroyed 2,00 homes and left 7,000 people displaced. They began on Melbourne’s hottest day on record, fanned by 50mph winds and fuelled by tinder-dry leaf litter.

The wild fires scorched 450,000 hectares of the state of Victoria and seven, including a 2,500 hectare blaze near the resort town of Daylesford, are still burning.

But as 3,500 firefighters took advantage of slightly milder weather to attempt to contain the blazes, officals warned the worst may not be over.

“There’s no room for complacency,” Stuart Ord, a spokesman for the Department of Environment and Sustainability, said.

Mr Ord said the deadly combination of searing temperatures and high winds could return at any moment.

The most pressing threat will arrive on Friday, he said, when the fires are expected to intensify as the temperature rises to 104F (40C) and winds could increase to 30mph. Firefighters were working hard to strengthen containment lines around towns before then, he said.

“This is how it will be until late March-early April unless we get some rain,” he said.

“We’ve just had the driest January on record in Victoria with virtually no rain all year — combine that with a 13-year drought and the forest floors and bush are tinder dry.”

No rain is forecast for the region and Mr Ord would not rule out a repeat of the conditions, which led to the fire storms of Black Saturday.

On Monday fires threatened the fringes of the state capital Melbourne, and three firefighters were injured trying to control a blaze in the Dandenong Ranges.

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