Bushfire response praised

Bushfire response praised

19 March 2009

published by albany.yourguide.com.au

Australia —

Monday’s bushfire which threatened the town of Mt Barker and forced the evacuation of Plantagenet Hospital was swiftly contained thanks to a combination of forward planning and community spirit.

“It was a fantastic effort,” FESA Great Southern fire services manager John Tonkin said.

“FESA, the bushfire brigade, DEC water bombers, the Forest Products Commission and plantation companies just jumped on it.

“The police also did a great job evacuating the hospital and so did the SES, filling the water bombers out on the strip.

“We also had the Fire King helicopter from Perth helping out.”

It is believed the chain of events which started the fire began when a tree branch fell onto a powerline adjacent Frost Oval, although it was yet to be substantiated by fire investigators.

A few outbuildings on Mt Barker Polo Ground were singed but no homes were damaged by the blaze which burned 60 hectares of bushland.

The fire, which began around 11am, ran across the western side of Marmion Street before reaching the Water Corps reservoir and heading into unallocated Crown land.

“With the predicted high temperatures and strong winds, an extreme fire warning had already been issued on Monday,” Mr Tonkin said.

“We were very concerned about the fire reaching the town and getting onto Mt Barker hill.

“In fact, if it had travelled much further it would have reached the foot of the hill and quite probably escalated.

“Fortunately, over previous years, FESA has put in a matrix of fire access tracks as well as conducting prescribed burning, so the fire’s behaviour was nowhere near as bad as it could have been.”

A northerly wind blew in Mt Barker on Monday, which Mr Tonkin said fitted in with known fire-risk wind patterns in the area.

“Whenever we get trough line movements the wind goes north-east, north, then north-west and sometimes it will even swing around to the south-west.

“The fires we had in Mt Barker and Tenterden a few years ago were both associated with trough line movements.”

A frontal movement with gusts up to 55kph was forecast for Mt Barker on Tuesday afternoon.

As at yesterday, Mr Tonkin said the blaze has been contained, but a number of small spot fires could still pose a risk.

“We’re not quite out of the woods yet, we’ve still got fire crews on site and the chopper on Frost Oval just to make sure.”

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