In Victoria a state wide response was initiated to try andbring these fires under control. Fire trucks from allover the state were dispatched to the North East andvolunteer crew rosters established to man them. Typicallya four man crew would travel to the North East for a fourday shift to man their tanker on the fire ground. Crewswould be driven by their colleagues to a central depotwere they would be briefed and bussed up to one of thefire areas.ABC Press KitPage 3
On the 19thof January fierce winds drove the fires, northof the Victorian border, toward Canberra. A fire stormdeveloped in forestry plantations on the edge of the cityshowering the suburbs with embers. Four hundred houseswere destroyed and four people killed. Volunteer brigades in other areas were kept on high alert.The massive media exposure meant the public was constantlyreminded of the fire threat and the general fire incidencewas lower than normal. Fires that did start were attackedquickly and with large numbers to ensure they didn’t getout of control like the fires in Canberra.As the alpine fires expanded more trucks were sent tofight them. At the height of the Victorian fires morethan 5,000 fire-fighters, 600 vehicles and 35 aircraftwere involved. As the fires spread they combined togetherinto an enormous fire front over a hundred kilometerslong. Over a million hectares of bush, three thousandkilometers of fencing and nine thousand stock weredestroyed. Although a number of towns were threatened only forty onehomes were burnt and one firefighter killed. Drowned in astorm which brought the fires to an end eight weeks afterthey started. Forest Management.Traditional forest management methods have been underscrutiny with the impact of ‘greenies’ moving into thearea from the city. Concerns about logging in the WombatState Forest led to a Government ban in November 2002.This highly contested issue has polarised old and newsettlers in the area and has to be confronted by theMacedon brigades as they go about advising on fuelreduction strategies.The fire fighters are strongly of the view that fuelreduction burns are essential to protect the forest andprivate property adjacent to the forest. They argue thatlocking up National Parks has led to a proliferation offuel which makes fires burn hotter and strongerendangering surrounding properties. During the North Eastfires it was common for the wind to carry burning embersand bark for up to ten kilometers in front of the fire, inextreme wind conditions even further. Fire fightersregularly reported large pieces of burning bark fallingout of the sky four or five kilometers ahead of the fire.In these conditions fires can spread very rapidly.
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- Jeff Miller