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Burning coastal scrub in May

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By: Sharon Mifsud

Category: Community Safety, Incidents - Other

  3.20 PM 9 May, 2013

Location: District 4 News

Views: 3228

Who would have thought that we would be burning coastal wattle and heath in May!

On Wednesday May 8th, CFA, Parks Victoria and Alcoa Portland conducted a prescribed burn of 28 Hectares on private land owned by the Portland Aluminium Smelter and public land managed by the Point Danger committee of management. This is the first fuel reduction burn in a larger Portland Heathland Management plan that will be conducted over the next 5-6 years.

In other years this area would have been too damp to burn in May but because of the very dry conditions we’ve had over the summer, the moisture readings were within the prescriptions to enable a successful burn.

The area was last burnt around 1996 and so the aim of the burn was to reduce the vegetation fuel hazard from its current extreme level. This was achieved. Once the fire took and got into the middle
parts where the fuel was more dense, within seconds there was a huge ball of flame in the air reaching heights of approximately 40 meters.

Vegetation Management Officer, Brendan Gordon has been working with the catchment team, the Portland Smelter and the Committee of Management to make this all come together. Brendan has put in numerous hours of travelling, mapping, taking moisture readings and planning and yesterday was the end result of all of this work. Brendan and Operations Officer Gary Harker had divided the area to be burnt into 10 compartments to make it easier to control and the plan was to burn the sections along the edge of the area so that when the main part was lit up, it would only burn onto itself. This plan worked very well.

The timing of the burn had to occur within a very narrow range of weather conditions to be conducted successfully. The wind needed to be a Northerly so that it would push the smoke out to the ocean and not over the town. The main asset risk was the Smelter which joined onto the North side of the burn area. This asset has a huge economic value not only to Portland but the whole state of Victoria.

Crews in attendance came from the Portland Aluminium Smelter, Parks Victoria, Portland Leading Fire Fighter Natalie Brindle and CFA volunteers from Portland, Narrawong, Heywood, Gorae West and Heathmere brigades. These guys are well used to working together as part of a team and they do it very well. The Vegetation Management Officers – Anthony Watt and Brendan Gordon were also on scene taking hourly weather conditions and to see their plans all come together. It was also great to see the District 4 Operations Team all out on the fire ground together alongside the CFA volunteers and Parks crews.

Last Updated: 09 May 2013