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Orbost Community Newsletter 21/2/14
Fire activity has increased in and around the township of Goongerah and Martins Creek over the last couple of days, causing the community to be put on high alert.
Strong winds caused fires to spot yesterday both to the north and south of Goongerah. Firefighters and aircraft were deployed immediately to battle the outbreaks, with good results ensuing.
Bonang, Cabanandra and the Warm Corners area also experienced increased fire activity and smoke over the last two days.
Firefighters continue to patrol, monitor and black out the fire and numerous other spot fires. Limited backburning has occurred yesterday and today due to non-conducive weather conditions, but will continue along the Sardine Creek Road today with additional smoke being produced.
Resources currently deployed to the fire response include 193 crew, 87 slip-on units, 3 tankers, 53 plant and aircraft.
The Bonang Highway from Orbost to Goongerah remains closed. Escorted trips for locals have been cancelled until further notice due to increased fire activity.
The Bonang Highway from Goongerah to Bonang remains open to local residents only, with proof of residency being required at the traffic management point established at Rising Sun Road, Bonang.
FAR EAST GIPPSLAND FIRES OVERVIEW
Multiple lightning strikes occurred in Far East Gippsland Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 January. DEPI and CFA crews were deployed to fight the fires which were located in three main areas: Club Terrace / Combienbar, Goongerah and Bendoc / Bonang.
A combination of factors created difficult firefighting conditions. These were extreme weather conditions, limited resources (which were being shared across the state), and rugged and remote terrain.
As weather conditions eased, crews including CFA volunteers were able to directly attack the fire, and then patrol, black out and strengthen containment lines. Many of the fires were able to be contained. Additional resources were deployed from NSW, QLD and New Zealand and they have assisted greatly in the overall firefighting effort for Victoria, including in Far East Gippsland.
The first two weeks of February however, suffered hot and dry weather combined with northerly winds. Fire activity increased markedly and numerous spotfires were created; notably the containment lines around the Club Terrace-Goolengook River Fire held during this period.
The remaining fires grew in size and merged into the Goongerah-Deddick Trail Fire. Firefighters were now using backburning as a key strategy to fight the fire. Backburning now focuses along the northern edge of the fire, around and south of Goongerah, and to the north of Orbost.
In general cooler and calmer weather conditions have significantly slowed the fire spread. The backburning operations at times have caused marked increases of smoke in the air, which has resulted in much smoke being seen by nearby communities and roads.
At the peak of the Far East Gippsland Fires, there were 47 going fires at the one time in mid-January. The Goongerah-Deddick Trail Fire has now burnt through an extraordinary 137,500 hectares and has a perimeter of 685 kilometres.
Overall the fires have caused a number of road and Park closures, and power, internet and telephone outages which have significantly disrupted the lives of local residents. Devastation has affected those that have lost their homes and other assets, at Goongerah, Cabanandra and Bonang, and animal and stock losses have been sad and hard to bear for many farmers and community members.
CLUB TERRACE AND COMBIENBAR COMMUNITY EFFORT
The Club Terrace-Goolengook River Fire has burnt through 8,071 hectares and has a perimeter of 88 kilometres. Located 10 kilometres north-north-west of Club Terrace, this fire has now been burning for 36 days.
The small and remote communities of Club Terrace and Combienbar really pulled together during this anxious and stressful period. As firefighters worked to strengthen containment lines around the fire, the community communicated, coordinated and enacted their bushfire survival plan.
Everyone in the community was included in the plan. Warning and Advice messages were disseminated by one community member to other residents. A phone tree was organised. When the message was issued Sunday 9 February by the Orbost ICC to evacuate, the message was received, the community organised themselves, and came down the mountain together in convoy, safely.
Later when the threat had subsided and the warning downgraded, the community members of Club Terrace and Combienbar safely returned to their homes.
Firefighting agencies including the Department of Environment and Primary Industries, VicForests, Parks Victoria and the Country Fire Authority would like to thank this community for their cooperation, patience and goodwill.
· Remain cautious of hazardous trees.
· When driving in smokey conditions, slow down, use your headlights and maintain adequate distance between you and other vehicles.
· Limit your driving to essential activities to ensure roads are as clear as possible for emergency vehicles and crews to continue their work.
· If you are experiencing smoke exposure, seek medical advice or call Nurse-on-Call on 1300 606 024.
· If you see injured wildlife, please call Wildlife Victoria on 1300 094 535.
· Drive with care as there could be wildlife or stock wandering on roads. Farmers may also be transporting stock, so watch out for stock trucks.
· Remember where applicable only emergency service vehicles are allowed to drive past or around “Road Closed” signs. They are put there for public safety and to reduce traffic in a dangerous area.
Updated information on road closures is available via 13 11 70 or the VicRoads website www.vicroads.vic.gov.au.
The Tubbut Primary School, Goongerah Primary School and Early Childhood Centre are closed until further notice due to road closures.
· Errinundra National Park
· Lind National Park
· Snowy River National Park
· Alpine National Park below Willis to McKillops.
For information about park, forest and road closures:
USING RAINWATER AFTER A BUSHFIRE
It is important for residents in fire affected areas, or in areas where ash may have fallen on roofs, to ensure that all rainwater from the first good rainfall event is not collected as this may be contaminated by ash.
Please refer to the Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria website for further information www.recovery.vic.gov.au.
Victorian Bushfire Information Line (VBIL) on freecall 1800 240 667. Callers with hearing or speech impairment can call the VBIL via the National Relay Service on 1800 555 677.
Facebook (facebook.com/cfavic) or Twitter (Twitter @ CFA_Updates).
Local ABC Radio: 828AM 97.1FM 104.9FM 106.1FM
TRFM Commercial Radio: 99.9FM; Gold 1242: 1242AM
East Gippsland Shire Recovery Line on 1800 100 298.
Emergency Relief and Recovery Victoria on 1300 799 232 or visit www.recovery.vic.gov.au.
If you are a landholder and share boundaries with State Forest, Park or Reserve and have fences that have been burnt, contact the Recovery Officer at the Orbost DEPI Office on 5161 1222 or contact the DEPI Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Victorian Farmers Federation on 1300 882 833, available 24/7, for more information on sourcing fodder.
DEPI can assist farmers with recovery after fire. Contact DEPI on 136 186 or visit www.depi.vic.gov.au.
The Department of Human Services (DHS) offers useful recovery information; visit www.humanservices.gov.au.
MANAGING STRESS DURING EMERGENCIES
The impact of an emergency such as a bushfire can be stressful and exhausting. People are encouraged to look after themselves in this period. People who readily use formal and informal support from family, friends or other support organisations are generally found to recover better from stressful situations.
People affected by an incident are encouraged to make use of GPs, clergy, 24 hour telephone help lines, or specialist counselling and support services available. Talking it over with others often helps recovery from exposure to traumatic events – prevention is better than cure.
COUNSELLING AND HEALTH ADVICE
Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 or www.beyondblue.org.au.
Mensline Australia on 1300 789 978, available 24/7.
Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800.
Parentline on 13 22 89.
GENERAL HEALTH INFORMATION
Nurse-on-Call on 1300 60 60 24, available 24/7.
For information on bushfire smoke can affect your health, and emergency assistance, visit the DHS website:
Red Cross Registration on 1800 727 077 or visit www.redcross.org.au.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS
Firefighters would like to thank you for your greetings, photos and drawings; they are much appreciated. Unfortunately we cannot accept food contributions due to food regulations. However keep the greetings coming as we love them!
For more information about the Far East Gippsland Fires call the Orbost Incident Control Centre on (03) 5161 1318