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Commissioner video update 3/3/14
We’ve now moved into Autumn. We’ve started March and it’s interesting to watch how dry it still is across Victoria.
Central Victoria, Western Victoria still as dry as it’s been through all of January February. There has been no rain of significance which tells us we’ve got to be careful. The days start to get shorter so the fire risk is reduced, however, we’ve got to be really careful about what the conditions bring. This week for example we see increased fire danger ratings in some parts of the state on Tuesday and Wednesday due to the fact that there’s drier air, temperatures are up a bit, and the wind increases in speed. So we need to be really careful about that and obviously stay attuned to the fact that we can still have fires that do damage.
It’s also interesting to see that we’ve still got the east Gippsland fires burning, although they’re only burning in some areas and there’s been significant work done in the last week about getting them somewhat contained. Although it’s still large in size the areas of most concern are only in small parts. For all Victoria everyone knows the Hazelwood mine is still burning. We believe we’ve still got another 7 days, so around about the 10th or 11th of March is the control strategy. We’re very careful when we say that though because with weather conditions we can see all the good work that’s been done over the last four days could be lost one afternoon if the wind speeds are up and the fire expands and extends in the burned area of coal.
That fire in itself is really interesting in the sense the fire’s not seen by the community. All that the community sees is smoke. It smells, and it’s got ash that’s falling from time to time. To those in Morwell it’s frustrating, there’s no doubt about that. It’s now in its third and heading into its fourth week.
A lot of work’s been done around the community. Volunteer and career staff from multiple organisations. Volunteers reaching across Victoria not only from CFA, but from Red Cross, Council of Churches, organisations have been supporting not only the response but the relief, moving into recovery and what they’ve done with some of the areas to be relocated. So that’s critical and we’ll keep at it and keep close to the Morwell community because they need that level of support.
The other thing that happens this week is the long weekend. A lot of recreation, a lot of sporting activities, a lot of major events across Victoria. That means a lot of people will be on the roads and travelling. So again the message will be out about travelling, about campfires, about people doing the right thing in still very dry conditions. We think very mild fire conditions over the weekend which we welcome, but that doesn’t mean a small fire couldn’t start and cause someone some grief.
The other thing as we move into March is that DEPI will reactivate their planned burns program – small burns that are well planned to reduce the hazards, so a hazard reduction program. That will be kicked off in small, focused fires in some parts of Victoria so stay tuned to where DEPI is planning those, it’s all on their website.
So it’s still a busy week but we welcome the fact that summer’s behind us and we’ve moved into a new season with autumn in front of us, but a very dry autumn.