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Fireys challenged over fire season
Firefighters fought more than 4,600 grass and bushfires during a significant fire season that challenged emergency services and Victorian communities, Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said today.
** Fire Services Commissioner Victoria Media Release**
“During the 2013-14 fire season Victoria experienced a heat wave, long running fires in hard to reach, remote bushland, and fast moving grass fires threatening Melbourne’s fringe,” Mr Lapsley said.
Tragically, one life was lost in the Grampians. Seventy-six houses and 2,900 kilometres of fences were destroyed or damaged, and more than 21,500 livestock lost. More than 460,000 hectares of private and public land was burnt.
“The risk of bushfire in regional and outer metropolitan communities is a very difficult reality for communities and the firefighters working hard to protect those communities,” he said.
“It has been a long and challenging season for the emergency services and Victorian communities and their efforts in preparing for and responding to the threat of fire should be recognised.
From December 2013 to March 2014, Victoria had 19 days of extreme and severe fire danger rating and 16 days of Total Fire Ban.
In January, fires were predominantly in the Northern Grampians and Loddon Mallee regions and the first official Recommendation to Evacuate in Victoria was issued for the Halls Gap community.
In February, the communities of Gisborne, Warrandyte, Wallan, Kilmore and surrounding towns came under threat.
Mr Lapsley said Victoria experienced the most significant fire threat in years on February 9. In a 24-hour period on that day, Victoria recorded 954 emergency incidents, almost six times more than on a normal summer day. By 9.30pm on February 10, more than 100 fires were burning out of control.
The Hazelwood Open Cut Mine fire challenged more than 7000 individual firefighters and the community with 45 days of intense firefighting before being declared safe.
East Gippsland communities including Bonang, Dedderick, Goongerah and Tubbat also lived under the threat of fire and in smoke for more than six weeks until the deep-seated forest fires started by lightning were contained.
During the fire season, approximately 2850 international and interstate firefighters spent just over two months assisting Victorian crews in incident control centres and CFA fire stations across Victoria.
Interstate and international crews from Queensland, NSW and New Zealand arrived in Victoria at the end of January after prolonged hot weather and in preparation of heightened fire danger.
Further support came from South Australia, Tasmania, ACT and Air Services Australia as part of the response to the Hazelwood Open Cut Mine fire.