Monday, December 11, 2006

Two days to regroup in Victoria. But...

THREATS from bushfires engulfing Victoria's north and east eased today reports the Australian.


Homes lost as fire tears through three states

FIRES created havoc across three states last night as lightning strikes and fierce winds sparked blazes that threatened homes in Sydney's west, destroyed up to 23 houses in Tasmania and consumed vast areas of bushland in Victoria.

That's a developing story from Sydney Morning Herald.

Photo Stuart Mcevoy. The Australian. A fire in Victoria.

THREATS from bushfires engulfing Victoria's north and east eased today, but exhausted firefighters have little chance for rest as they prepare for a second onslaught later in the week.

THE immediate bushfire threat to a raft of Victorian towns in the state's high country has abated but dozens of fires are still burning strongly throughout much of the state's northeast in remote and difficult terrain in the Alpine National Park. Rising temperatures and strengthening winds have been forecast for Wednesday and Thursday.

CFA deputy chief officer Geoff Evans described the moderation in weather as a lull before the storm. “These fires are going to push south again and could again impact on communities around Glenmaggie and across to the Bairnsdale area,” Mr Evans told ABC Radio. “This fire will go on for months ... we have to keep up communication with the community about how the fire is going to progress and where it is.”

Meanwhile, in Sydney The Australian is reporting:

Bushfire threatens city homes

December 11, 2006

A BUSHFIRE sparked by lightning strikes is burning near the backyards of properties in Sydney's west.

Lightning ignited fires in the roofs of three Sydney homes, with one now spreading to bushland in Cranebrook.

The fire was almost brought under control until a southerly change fanned the blaze and it is now burning northwards, posing a threat to some homes around Smeeton, Vincent and The Northern roads.

Rural Fire Service (RFS) spokesman Cameron Wade said more than 100 personnel and 80 trucks were currently attending the blaze, with more resources on the way.

"It's come right up to the backyard in a lot of cases," Mr Wade said.

And further south in Tasmania:

Tasmanian firestorm destroys homes

Tracy Ong and Richard Kerbaj

December 12, 2006

FOURTEEN houses have been destroyed in raging bushfires along Tasmania's east coast and up to 23 properties are feared to have been lost.

No deaths or injuries have been reported, but the Tasmanian Fire Service last night confirmed at least 14 homes had been hit in the northeast coastal town of Scamander.

TFS senior station officer Danny Reid said authorities were attempting to determine exactly how many dwellings had been lost during the firestorm, which was fanned by 100km/h winds.

Robert Legge, Mayor of the Break O'Day Council that covers Scamander, said he had heard reports up to 23 homes had been burnt but reports were "sketchy" because the phone networks were down.

Tasmania's chief fire officer, John Gledhill, said fire crews would not be able to determine the exact number of homes burnt until today. "There was a firestorm ... it actually burnt through to the coast there," he said.

The Tasmanian blazes have been burning for the past week but turned into an inferno yesterday in the intense wind conditions, forcing firefighters to retreat from the frontline.

And just one little cameo:

30 stay behind to defend village

Richard Kerbaj

December 11, 2006

IT'S been more than 20 years since John Ellis had to defend his home from a bushfire. During Victoria's deadly Ash Wednesday fires in 1983, the inferno got to within 50m of his doorstep.
That was in Upwey, in the Dandenong Ranges, east of Melbourne. But yesterday, with another massive blaze threatening, the high school music teacher was readying to defend his getaway in the alpine town of Woods Point.

Mr Ellis has been in the 45-resident town in Victoria's northeast since last Thursday to ensure the house he has owned for only six months does not go up in flames.

"I came up here to see if I can help out anyone who needs help," he told The Australian last night. "The threat is really bringing the community together."

The 60-year-old father of two is one of 30 people who have stayed back to defend their properties in the town that is historically famous for goldmining.

The state's most destructive bushfire, on Black Friday, 1939, killed 71 people and destroyed Woods Point. But the residents were yesterday confident that they had done all they could to save the town this time.

Fire authorities had prepared two safety points for residents in the town centre. One was at a mine shaft, known as The Adit, which was equipped with food and water, blankets and oxygen masks. The other was at the town's Country Fire Authority headquarters.

CFA operations manager in Woods Point, Paul King, last night said firefighters had developed a three-point strategy.

In the first instance they wanted to protect the entire town.

If that failed they would defend "key community assets", such as the pub, police station and petrol station.

Should that also fail, they would concentrate on ensuring the safety of residents.

Mr Ellis said he hoped that Mother Nature would have mercy on the town and bring in the rain.

"I hope it's all got a happy ending", he said.

And that's what it comes down to.

And another face of the story. The Age reports:

THE firefighters are getting tired.

It shows at the end of shifts, when CFA volunteers collapse outside the Whitfield staging post, the 40-degree heat no barrier to sleep.

The battle in this north-eastern town has been long and fierce.

For the past week, firefighters have been working 12-hour shifts round the clock — at a minimum. For many, it has been worse.

Robert Cook, captain of the Edi Rural Fire Brigade, says he has been working 22-hour days. At times, his volunteers have felt like zombies.

It has been tough. But that extraordinary effort, resulting in huge tracts of backburned land and thick control lines, appears to have been successful.

Yesterday, it looked as though Whitfield — regarded by the CFA as directly under threat — was going to survive the much feared "horror weekend".

And while all these people are battling to exhaustion, risking their lives to save lives, human & animal, and property:

Arsonists strike as the battle rages

Lisa Macnamara

December 11, 2006

WHILE more than 3000 firefighters battled blazes in northeast Victoria and Gippsland, several fires appeared to have been deliberately lit in Melbourne and in the southwest of the state.

Police were yesterday treating a fire that destroyed a home near Camperdown, in Victoria's southwest, as suspicious.

Firefighters also spent two hours putting out deliberately litgrass fires that threatened homes at Glenroy, in Melbourne's northwest.

Victorian Premier Steve Bracks warned that fire bugs would be aggressively prosecuted.

"It's just one of the most reprehensible things imaginable at a time when the state is tinderbox dry," he said.
From a report in The Australian

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