Bushfire threatens homes and lives in Victoria’s alpine region

Bushfire threatens homes and lives in Victoria’s alpine region

01 February 2013

published by www.news.com.au

Australia — A FIRE warning for a blaze in Victoria’s alpine region has been downgraded, while a grass fire at Katunga has been brought under control.

The Country Fire Authority’s watch and act alert for the areas of Katunga, Strathmerton and Yarroweyah has been downgraded to an advice alert.

Thirty-one fire trucks responded to the 18ha blaze before it was brought under control.

Meanwhile the CFA has downgraded the emergency warning for Hotham Heights, near Bright – 380km northeast of Melbourne – to a watch and act this afternoon, but urged locals to remain vigilant throughout the evening.

The CFA says while the blaze has not changed in size, about 5000ha, a wind change overnight impacted the direction of the fire, sending it away from the township.

The fire is still burning out of control and spotting.

Light rain in the area has helped to clear smoke in the air but had little impact on the fire on the ground.

The bushfire jumped containment lines yesterday afternoon.

A CFA spokesperson, speaking earlier today, said no properties were lost overnight.

Snow machines at Mount Hotham were used to spray mist on the snowfields in an effort to keep them damp.

The CFA said cooler weather and easing conditions worked in their favour this morning.

The fires were impacting on Mount Hotham, Hotham Heights and Dinner Plain within a 44km perimeter.

The CFA deployed aircraft yesterday but they were quickly grounded due to strong winds.

Crews were able to water bomb between 7.30pm and 8.30pm until being grounded again before resuming this morning at first light.

Some 123 CFA firefighters, three fixed-wing aircraft, six helicopters and several ground vehicles are fighting the blaze.

Hotham Heights, Mt Hotham and Dinner Plains residents were told yesterday it was too late to flee and were urged to take cover.

The CFA said the blaze reignited because embers from the Harrietville fire sparked one spot fire in the village below the Hotham police station and two fires on the ski fields.

A wind change late in the night helped to drive the front away from Mt Hotham.

Mt Hotham ski resort management board chief executive Jim Atteridge said its equipment was being used to drench buildings in the village.

Mr Atteridge estimated there were 40 or 50 people in the village, including a full complement of resort administration staff.

“A significant increase in activity out on the Harrietville fire caused an ember attack in the Hotham village area and obviously intense smoke,” he said.

The CFA warned that telephone lines may be compromised and recommended that people did not rely on one communication source.

The Great Alpine Road is closed between Harrietville and Dinner Plain. The Dargo High Plains Road is closed between Great Alpine Road and Dargo.

Despite wild weather lashing the west of the state, including a mini tornado that hit Ballarat, the Bureau of Meteorology predicted only 1-5mm of rain for the Harrietville-Hotham areas.

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