Black Saturday fires almost contained

    Black Saturday fires almost contained

12 March 2009

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Australia — The last of Victoria’s major bushfires is almost contained but all four of the major blazes that haunted the state may keep burning until winter.

The massive 25,000 hectare blaze in the Wilsons Promontory National Park was expected to be contained by this weekend, Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) state duty officer Dennis Ward said.

The other major bushfires that began during Black Saturday on February 7 – including the giant Kilmore East Murrindindi North and South complex fires and the Bunyip Ridge blaze – were contained last weekend.

The Kilmore East Murrindindi North complex fire became a step closer to being extinguished when it was listed as controlled on Tuesday.

“We are confident the (Wilsons Promontory) fire will be listed as contained thanks to the fire suppression activity, rainfall and recent weather,” Mr Ward said today.

“It is not threatening assets, it’s not a concern and there is a bit of rain on that site.”

The “Prom”, one of the most popular national parks in Australia, is scheduled to reopen to hikers and campers at the start of April.

At least 210 people died from the February 7 fires and more than 2,000 homes were lost.

Bushfire survivors whose homes were lost or badly damaged were told they would be given $50,000 to kick-start the rebuilding process.

The massive blazes had burnt more than 300,000 hectares and would keep burning until June-July unless there was heavy rain, Mr Ward said.

“To put out the big fires we need to get rainfall over the fire ground,” he said.

“Otherwise it’s conceivable we could get to winter with fire in peat and large sections underground, so we will need crews working on the fire’s edge.”

Lightning strikes started new blazes around Victoria this week, the biggest near Buchan in the state’s east, but they were not causing problems, he said.

Next week, the DSE begins its planned autumn burning season involving fuel reduction and regeneration burning.

Meanwhile, Premier John Brumby said today media and members of the public will be granted limited access to the bushfire royal commission’s community consultations.

An outcry erupted yesterday after it was revealed the initial community hearings would be heard behind closed doors.

But the commissioner’s office eased its stance, saying the media would be allowed in to hear opening statements before the doors were closed to enable survivors to recount their stories in private.

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