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Commissioner video update 17/2/14
It’s been a busy week. Across Victoria we’ve seen fires across all sorts of places. A very interesting week, a very successful week but for those that lost properties a very sad week.
We should think about those – 45 houses were destroyed since Saturday. So in a week we’ve seen 45 houses disappear. Add to the houses lost in the Grampians previously, that’s 78 houses destroyed in Victoria so far this summer and you can only hope that stops with the change in the weather.
A busy week but a really successful week. I think Victorian communities have really seen the fire services step up and step up so well and they’ve acknowledged that and said congratulations to everyone. So whether you’re a volunteer or a career person, whether you’re on the back of a truck or in a management team, whether you’re home protecting your area or you’re away at major fires I say thank you to everyone, because it’s been a fantastic commitment. And it extends past the fire services. Victoria Police, Ambulance Victoria, local government, Red Cross, local community groups, it shows the commitment people will give when there’s a time of need. It’s something that’s very special and we should say well done to everyone. We should also stop and think we’ve done it and done it so well.
But you can’t do it without the community, the community have done so well. We focus sometimes on the loss of 78 houses, but think about how many houses have been threatened by fire and survived. We should think about people. We haven’t lost a life, not one life lost and we’ve had horrendous fires, very intense, fast moving, unpredictable, which means we’ve got that right. Likewise we haven’t seen significant injury. I know there have been injuries but none have been significant injuries and that’s also been a positive takeaway from what’s been a very busy week.
It hasn’t left us, East Gippsland’s still got fires, and we don’t want to forget East Gippsland because it’s a very important part of Victoria. So those in the Goongerah, Bonang, Tubbut area have got fires around them, have lost property. Some of them are only regaining access to their communities now and their properties. So that’s a long haul for them. Right at the start, the lightning that started three weeks ago now has been with them with fires around them, smoke in the area and fire threatening them ongoing. So we’ve got to say to East Gippsland we’re all with you. Those communities that have had the biggest impact now are only just getting back on their feet now and it’s a hard road to come from.
The other one that’s challenging us significantly is the fire that’s in the Hazelwood open cut. A grass fire ran in there on Sunday the 9th and has been burning since then. Likewise in Yallourn open cut there’s a small fire that’s difficult to get out but they’ve done very well to get it contained to where it is now. And during the past week have had fires in the Australian Paper Mill just north of Morwell. So the Latrobe Valley’s had grass fires, coal mine fires, fires that have impacted on the stockpiles of the Australian Paper Mill and huge CFA and MFB resources, telebooms, aerial appliances, aircraft in the sky, a huge ongoing operation. I think the Hazelwood mine will burn for a number of weeks and the biggest concern with that is the amount of smoke that it’s putting up over Morwell. It’s certainly a key issue between the fire authorities, EPA and the Department of Health to make sure we get the messaging right and make sure the Morwell community get the information they need about their safety and wellbeing.
The next week, the weather is milder. The highest fire danger rating we believe in the forecast is very high. We’ve had some rain particularly in the northern part of the state, but it doesn’t take long for that rain to disappear because it was only 10 or 15 millimetres. So that’s critical. In the very north western corner there was more rain so that’s obviously welcome, but we have got most parts of Victoria still very dry. The fire danger rating won’t be in the higher levels, but people still need to be mindful about fires, particularly small fires that can do damage, and we need to stay on the ball, but certainly let’s take the welcome respite forward with us.
So in closing thank you to everyone. It’s been a great week, great things achieved, we’ve had losses and our hearts are open to those who lost their properties and hopefully they get the help they need to re-establish themselves. We’ll enjoy what is a milder week across Victoria.
Transcript – Craig Lapsley – Fire Conditions Update 17 February 2014