Australia — Jan Greig has seen occasional mysterious wisps of smoke rising from the Yeodene area for more than a decade.
Mrs Greig said she could see the unexplained “specks of smoke” in the middle distance about once or twice a year, usually on calm days, from the front verandah of her home at nearby Murroon.
So when fire broke out earlier this month in a forested peat swamp area on private land at Yeodene where she had seen the puffs of smoke, she was not surprised.
Her sightings were one of the reasons that led the Country Fire Authority to believe the fire, which was only brought under control yesterday, is a reignition of one which began in 1997 and has been smouldering underground ever since.
Mrs Greig said there were reports of peats fires burning underground in England for 100 years, so 13 years was not surprising.
CFA Corangamite deputy group officer Mike Evans said an underground peat fire at Koo Wee Rup, south-east of Melbourne, burnt for 80 years while one at Casterton in 2006 again took a long time to extinguish.
CFA Region Six acting operations manager Nick Brown said infra-red scans done in 1998 of the Yeodene peat area burnt in 1997 led firefighters to believe the fire was out, but this month’s blaze indicated otherwise.
The fire, and controlled burning by the CFA and Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), have so far burnt out about 100 hectares. Trenches up to three metres deep have been dug around parts of the fire area in a bid to stop the fire continuing to move through underground peat.
Some of the trenches have filled naturally with water and the CFA, in a further bid to create a below ground barrier to the fire, might fill other trenches with water if they do not do so naturally.
Mr Evans said about four hectares of the underground peat area still appeared to be burning with the fire moving about a metre each day.
Smoke will be visible in the area for several days.