Australia — Fire authorities estimate up to twelve homes have been destroyed by fires across the State yesterday.
Three of the homes lost were in Warrandyte.
Another two were lost in Gisborne while between five and seven have been lost in the Mickleham fires.
There were 200 grass and scrub fires reported yesterday, 12 of which police say were suspicious.
According to Victorian Fire Commissioner Craig Lapsley, three fires are still deemed significant, with resources being moved to Morwell as the fire there has the potential to impact infrastructure in Victoria.
Twenty fires are still not under control. Another nine have been contained.
The Government has also announced immediate assistance, including about $30,000 in grants to help people rebuild after losing their homes.
There are also hundreds of road closures right across the state, including a number of main highways.
Three significant fires
Commissioner Lapsley says resources have no moved to Morwell as the fire there has potential to impact critical infrastructure in Victoria.
The Morwell fire is one of the three significant fires still burning in Victoria.
“(It) is burning currently in the Hazelwood mine, the open cut mine, also at the Australian paper mill on the northern side of Morwell,” he said.
“That is the key fire for today.
“It is not threatening lives, but it certainly has the potential to impact on critical infrastructure of Victoria.”
He says major aircraft has now been moved to the area to deal with the fire in the mine.
The Deputy Premier, Peter Ryan says it is hard to say how long it could burn.
“The main issue is to contain it, and that is where the enormous effort is being mounted at the present time, and being mounted successfully,” he said.
The other two fires of significance are the Kilmore fire which is running on two fronts, and the Snowy River complex of fires around Goongerah north of Orbost.
Across Victoria, 18 relief centres across Victoria.
Government providing three levels of assistance immediately
The Premier Denis Napthine this afternoon has been at the Gisborne Incident Control Centre, where he announced immediate assistance for people affected by the fires.
“People dislocated (by the fires) are able to have a household assistance plan,” he said.
“Those people who lost houses or had houses significantly damaged in the fire, are eligible for grant a bit over $30,000 for assistance to rebuild.”
He says the Government will also provide assistance to local councils and communities in terms of restoring assets after a fire.
12 suspicious fires, 3 still being investigated
Authorities says they have identified a number of suspects as they investigate 12 fires they believer were deliberately lit.
Police are yet to determine the cause of another 3 fires.
He says Operation Fireset is aimed at reducing the number of fires that are intentionally lit.
“We have a number of strategies in place, to visit people who have a history of lighting fires, patrol high risk areas, and we rely on a host of other intelligence,” said Police Commissioner Ken Lay.
Commissioner Lay is also encouraging people not to be reckless.
“Not only are the deliberately lit fires causing great concerns, there are occasions fires are lit by people not acting in a sensible manner by way they use tools and other machinery, on total fire bans,” he said.
“There are very, very heavy penalties for people that light fires on days of total fire ban by using machinery when they shouldn’t be using them.”
Commissioner Lay says police will be speaking to a number of witnesses before any arrests can be made.
“We will work through the process now,” he said.
“We work through the forensic evidence, we speak to all available witnesses and when we have sufficient evidence, we will then bring people before the courts.
“It is true to say some investigations are well progressed.”
Commissioner Lay warns that “firebugs” will be caught and face hefty penalties.
“We are getting so much better at this,” he said.
“The penalties are very, very heavy.
“Victoria Police get very frustrated but it seems to be a fact of life that there are people out there, for some reason, sometimes maliciously, sometimes because some people are troubled, they light fires.
“It is just so lucky that we haven’t got people that have lost their lives or been seriously injured as a result of these actions.”
The Premier Denis Napthine says he can not understand why people would deliberately put lives at risk.
“It’s just something that I cannot stomach, I cannot absolutely come to terms with it any way shape or form,” he said.
The CFA says the fire at Mickleham, which stretches 40 kilometres north towards Kilmore, Kilmore East and Wallan, is not suspicious.
“We are satisfied, or the early indications are that a falling branch across electrical wires has started this fire,” said Commissioner Lapsley.
Crews ‘saved 500 homes in Gisborne’, Premier
Of the homes lost across the State, two were in Gisborne, where the Premier earlier praised the efforts of emergency crews.
“While 2,500 hectares has been burnt and tragically 2 houses have been lost, the good news is there were no lives lost in this fire, no body seriously injured, over 500 homes saved,” he said.
“Over 500 homes in the burnt area are standing today because of the heroic efforts and the good management of our fire services.
“This fire went right tot he edge of Riddles Creek, a major settlement, if the fire had gone into Riddles Creek and Mount Macedon, it would have been a disaster.
Dr Napthine says yesterday was the most extreme fire day the State has seen in five years.
“We have, as a community, learnt the lessons of Black Saturday, with better warnings, better information and better coordination of all emergency services.”
But he says he is still concerned to see people going out to fight fires.
“I commend them to protect property, but they need to learn the lessons, radiant heat can and will kill,” he said.
More than 200 people have attended a community recovery meeting at Riddles Creek northwest of Melbourne.
The meeting was told the front reached three kilometres wide with flames three metres high.
Fire crews received a resounding round of applause in their work in saving the town.
Some people said they never expected a fire like that to happen and say it has been a massive wake-up call.
Two more recovery meetings will be held tonight at Riddles Creek and Gisborne.
Road closures across the State
There are currently hundreds of road closures right across the State, mainly on some of the smaller roads.
But there are a number of our main highways that are closed.