Towns cut off by inferno

Towns cut off by inferno

18 January 2013

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Australia — A BUSHFIRE in Victoria’s southeast has surrounded a number of towns, blocking escape routes for residents and reportedly burning houses down.

A blaze which started in Aberfeldy yesterday unexpectedly flared up this morning and now covers 25000 hectares, with a number of towns under threat.

Up to eight communities in the densely forested east and southeast are under threat.

The historic hamlet of Licola, about 250km east of Melbourne, has been completely cut off and firefighters fear will be impacted when a forecast wind change comes about midday.

Licola Wilderness Village program manager Cherry Wake said the village, which operates a school adventure camp and caravan park, has evacuated visitors.

“Last night we evacuated about 61 children and 15 adults,” she said.

“We’re all pretty calm. We’ve prepared as much as we can, It’s (now) sit and wait.”

State Commander John Haynes said several homes were reported to have been lost at Seaton and Heyfield.

“We expect there will be losses but we are not sure of how many at this stage,” he told ABC TV.

“We are just concentrating on trying to fight the fire and protect as many as we can.”

Mr Haynes it was an “uncanny” fire as spot fires led to it moving more quickly than predicted.

“This fire actually burnt in areas that were burnt in 2007 so it’s not large fuel amounts, it’s limited fuel, but it ran very hard and it came out about four hours earlier than what we thought,” he said.

The CFA issued an emergency warning at 10.10am to people in the Coongulla area, which is separated from Glenmaggie by Lake Glenmaggie.

It advised the blaze was impacting Coongulla now and creating spot fires about one kilometre ahead.

“The wind change is now moving the fire in a northeasterly direction,” the CFA said.

Heyfield Commercial Hotel publican Jeremiah Wallace said about 40 locals were gathered there and keenly listening to the radio and watching television for updates.

He estimated the fire was about 5km from Heyfield.

“It’s pretty scary,” Mr Wallace told AAP.

“We have just heard Lake Glenmaggie is burning.

“They (Seaton) have lost some houses, they just don’t know how many.”

The CFA issued an early warning to residents to enact their fire plans.

A wind change late morning is expected to send the fire towards the north-east.

“The spot fires from this fire are impacting on Coongulla, Glenmaggie, Seaton, Heyfield, Newry and Glenmaggie Point,” a CFA spokeswoman said.

“It’s impacting them now. We are asking them to act immediately. They are in danger.”

The spokeswoman said people in affected areas should leave now if it was safe.

“We are asking people to leave now if it is safe to do so but to be cautious on the roads,” she said.

The fire started east of Seaton yesterday and last night, was not expected to effect homes.

However the CFA said conditions changed dramatically about 2am and the fire was not spotting up to 8km ahead of itself.

In South Australia, firefighters are continuing to battle an uncontrolled bushfire in the state’s mid-north which is pushing smoke towards the township of Jamestown.

The CFS said the fire at Bundaleer North, near Wehrmann Rd, Humphris Rd, Burnside Rd and Springs Rd is travelling northeast towards RM Williams Way.

The fire, which began on Wednesday, has burnt through more than 2300 hectares of pine forest.

The CFS said the fire may threaten the safety of people in the area.

Temperatures across South Australia have cooled considerably on Friday, after many areas were in the 40s on yesterday.

Adelaide hit 43 degrees, its fifth day above 40 so far this summer, but its forecast for today is 27.

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