Australia–– FIREFIGHTERS have contained a bushfire burning near Port Lincoln, and began back-burning during the night.
The bushfire near Coomunga has burnt through 2200 hectares at Mungerowie Scrub – to the north-west of Duck Pond, about five kilometres from Port Lincoln.
While the fire is burning within containment lines, the CFS said there was a small escape on the north-east corner overnight but it was quickly managed. It has warned weather conditions are continually changing.
Fire crews began back burning overnight to establish control lines around the fire’s perimeter, and the CFS has warned this may mean reduced visibility because of low-hanging smoke.
The high relative humidity in the air posed a challenge for back-burning, but the better weather conditions today will allow crews to continue back-burning in the north-west of the fire ground.
More favourable conditions overnight meant a smaller crew could patrol the fire, allowing other firies to rest in preparation for today’s control work.
“We are increasing our resources on the ground with 161 firefighters, 21 tankers and 3 quick response vehicles on site to continue managing the fire,” CFS Incident Controller Ian Tanner said.
“We will also have five aircraft in place to support firefighting operations. One for air attack supervision, three fixed wing bombers and an observation aircraft.”
Crews will continue to use bulldozers and graders to establish mineral breaks on the perimeter of the fire.
“We will continue to secure the perimeter of the fire throughout the day and are advising the community that the back burning will generate significant amounts of smoke,” Mr Tanner said.
FOR a nerve-racking two hours yesterday, Coomunga farmer Cameron Dreckow was trapped behind a wall of flames, knowing the fire outside Port Lincoln was burning toward his home.
“I was more anxious not knowing what was going on … I knew which way the fire was heading, and I was unable to get there,” he said.
“I was lucky enough that a few mates got there, and it didn’t get to the house.
“The CFS trucks were all there, so between the lot of them that was all saved and they saved a fair portion of my wheat crop as well.”
This morning the fire is still burning within control lines, but the CFS warns that conditions are continually changing.
Firefighters battled a flare-up within control lines about 1.30pm yesterday when the fire front reached unburnt tall timber.
But crews were able to bring the blaze under control in cropping and pasture land by about 4pm. Late yesterday, it was moving slowly north, within control lines. Mr Dreckow, 43, had only three hours’ sleep on Tuesday night and expected little rest again last night as the fire approached his neighbour’s barley crop.
“We’re sitting just outside a patch of scrub on the government rifle range, listening to live ammunition going off as the fire’s coming through,” he said.
Port Lincoln Country Fire Service firefighter Kylie Kleinig spent more than eight hours on the fire ground on Tuesday night.
“I believe it was a success,” she said.
“It was the first time I have worked with the bulk water carrier so I had to learn some new skills. It gives you goosebumps when you realise what you have done.” For Len and Margo Bauer, the prospect of losing their nearly complete Endeavour Heights home was a reality as the fire closed within 3km.
Mr Bauer said he was well prepared, with fire hoses and pumps and a sprinkler system temporarily hooked up to the house, to stay and defend his property. “If that wind had stayed west for another hour that would have brought it straight over here and the outskirts of Port Lincoln,” he said.
Country Fire Service Eyre Peninsula and West Coast region commander Kevin May said hotspots would need to be monitored until April and May as inaccessible patches continued to burn. He said the CFS was planning for hot conditions this weekend with temperatures forecast in the 30s.
“It’s not a good start (to the season),” he said.
“I think the unfortunate thing is it always seems to pick on Port Lincoln, which brings back those memories from the past and that’s a real challenge for us.
“Those who have done the right thing have been able to turn around and walk away from these (bushfires) feeling confident and knowing the effort they have put in has been worthwhile.
The CFS expects conditions to improve today and tomorrow, before temperatures reach the low to mid 30s at the weekend.
The failure was in the forest areas.Advertisement
Following a 10-year strategy, ACT fire managers have created a mosaic across the landscape of different fuel levels, burning at every opportunity.
But forests have been too wet to burn this spring and the past two summers.
A network of 500 fire trails and strategic burns along the north-west urban edge, heavy grazing and extra grass slashing will create a fortress for the territory which forecasters say faces a higher than average risk this summer.
After a fire-fuelled tornado in January 2003 killed four Canberrans and frightened thousands more, CSIRO fire expert Phil Cheney told the subsequent inquiry the fire’s penetration into urban areas under extreme conditions did not reflect a failure of fuel management on the urban interface.