Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Aussie bushfire crisis worsening...

...eight homes lost, over one million hectares burnt in Victoria.

Fire crosses into New South Wales, ski resort town evacuated, National Parks closed.

Photo: Angela Wylie. Sydney Morning Herald

Residents of Thredbo were given the bad news this afternoon that bushfires 10 times worse than the 2003 blaze may threaten their properties, but with a typical steely resolve most were determined to remain and fight to save their homes and resorts should the need arise.

All visitors at the town have been evacuated, and entry is closed.

And in Victoria, also fighting the beast:

David Heffer and his partner Andy Corwe watched in horror last night as fire came to the doorstep of their Steiglitz home.

The couple managed to save their home near the tiny township, 80km west of Melbourne, but their neighbours weren't so lucky.

Mark Wilkinson, his wife Helen and their two young children lost their home in the blaze last night.

Today, Mr Heffer's red-brick home is untouched by fire, but the yard and surrounds are scorched and still smouldering. All that is left of the garden, once full of tussocks and native grasses, is stumps and ash.

'Bugger it, this is my place'

Pauline Lorenz and her family were preparing for the worst. They packed two cars full of their possessions and were waiting on the verandah for the fire to come.

"It's like, 'Bugger it, this is my place, and you're not going to have it.'"

Currently there are plenty of urgent warnings:

URGENT THREAT Archerton, Toombullup, Tolmie, Bunstons sub-division, Masons Road, Upper 15 Mile Creek. Spot fires and erratic fire behaviour in the Stringybark Road, Peppermint Road, Spring Creek Road and Bunstons Road areas.

And it's not looking good for the next few days:

'Worst bushfre crisis'

Earlier today, Premier Steve Bracks warned that Victoria is in the grip of the one of the worst bushfire crises in the state's history.

The Premier has cut short his holiday and returned to work after a fire in north-east Victoria cut transmission lines yesterday and sparked blackouts across the state.

Today Mr Bracks attended a briefing with Emergency Services Commissioner Bruce Esplin and Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Christine Nixon.

The meeting was told the next three days were critical and conditions were expected to be even worse on Saturday than they were yesterday, when eight houses were lost and temperatures soared into the 40s, Mr Bracks said.

"When I came back in this morning and had the briefing and learned that Saturday was going to be worse than yesterday, it just sends shivers up your spine because we all saw how bad yesterday was," he said.

"I think it will go down as one of our worst bushfire episodes in Victoria ever, and that's saying something in the state that had the 1939 fires, the 1983 fires and even the 2002/03 fires.

"This is the worst bushfire conditions we have ever had in Victoria's history because it is going to go on and it is going to get worse.

"We have never encountered this in Victoria before.

"This is 48 days ... of fire activity and one million hectares which have been burnt, and of course we are bracing ourselves for some very, very tough conditions."

Fingers crossed...

The stories:

House spared as fire hits neighbours.

Thredbo evacuated as fires cross border

Fire heading for Thredbo.

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